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When Is Robbery a Federal Crime?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

February 28, 2020

Robbery is a crime that occurs when someone takes another person’s property without consent and with the use of force. Depending on where it happened, it could be charged as either a state or a federal crime. Regardless of what jurisdiction it falls under, the conviction penalties are steep and include prison time and/or fines.

What’s the Difference Between a State and Federal Crime?

To get a better understanding of when robbery is charged as a state or federal crime, it’s essential to know what the difference is between the two.

State laws are those created and enacted by the state’s lawmakers. They apply to conduct committed within the state’s borders.

The U.S. government passes laws that are applicable to every person in the country. Generally, federal offenses are those that cross state lines, are committed on federal property or against federal officers, or involves immigration or customs matters.

Federal Robbery Laws

Robbery becomes a federal crime when it takes place in a particular location or against a specific person.

The U.S. government has various laws that define when robbery is a federal crime. These include instances involving:

  • Special maritime and territorial jurisdiction: If a robbery takes place at high seas in the jurisdiction of the U.S., on a vessel registered under U.S. laws, on lands for use by the U.S., or on an aircraft belonging to the U.S., it is charged as a federal crime. A conviction for this offense results in up to 15 years in prison.
  • U.S. property: 18 U.S.C. § 2112 makes it unlawful for a person to steal or attempt to steal property that belongs to the U.S. The conviction penalties include up to 15 years imprisonment.
  • Financial institutions: When people think of robbery as a federal crime, they most often think of this offense. It involves taking property or money under the control of financial institutions. The conviction penalties depend on the nature of the offense. For instance, a person can spend up to 20 years in federal prison for robbing a bank. If they take something valued at more than $1,000, the conviction penalties include up to 10 years in prison. Stealing property valued at less than $1,000 results in a prison term of up to 1 year.
  • Mail, money, or other U.S. property: Assaulting a person who is in control of mail, money, or property of the U.S. is a federal offense that can result in up to 10 years in prison the first time someone commits it. If the conduct caused injury to the person or put their life in danger or is a second offense, the prison term increases to up to 25 years.
  • Post offices: Robbing a post office carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
  • Carrier facilities: It’s illegal to break into any type of vehicle shipping interstate or foreign items. If a person is convicted of this offense, they could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
  • Controlled substances: If a person steals a controlled substance that is under the custody of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, they can be sentenced to prison for up to 20 years.
  • Motor vehicles: Federal law prohibits individuals from stealing cars that are being transported across state or country borders. The offense can be penalized by a prison term of up to 15 years.

The effects of a federal robbery conviction can be long-lasting and detrimental. If you have been charged or are under investigation for an offense in Miami, reach out to Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today by calling (305) 330-1360 or submitting an online contact form. We’ll aggressively fight your charges.