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Washington District Court Clarifies Armed Bank Robbery Constitutes a Crime of Violence

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2019 | Federal

In many instances, if a defendant is convicted of using a firearm during the commission of a crime, the court may impose increased penalties. Specifically, if a defendant is found guilty of using a firearm while committing a crime of violence, federal law requires the defendant to be sentenced to imprisonment. In a recent case in which the defendant appealed his convictions, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington analyzed whether armed robbery constitutes a crime of violence. If you live in Washington and are charged with a weapons-related offense, you should meet with a seasoned Washington gun crime attorney to discuss your rights.

Facts and Procedural Background of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was a religious militant, and he and two co-conspirators committed two bank robberies and three bombings in support of their beliefs. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including possession of a grenade that was not registered, armed bank robbery, and use of a firearm during arson and armed bank robbery. A jury found the defendant guilty on multiple counts, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. The defendant appealed, arguing that his four convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), for the use of a firearm during a crime of violence, should be vacated.

Armed Bank Robbery Constitutes a Crime of Violence

On appeal, the government conceded that the two 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) convictions arising out of the destruction of a building should be vacated, since they did not constitute crimes of violence. Thus, the salient issue on appeal was whether armed robbery constituted a crime of violence. Under federal law, bank robbery is defined as the act of taking or attempting to take any money or property that is in the bank’s custody, through the use of force, intimidation, or violence. If, during the course of a bank robbery, a defendant assaults another person or places another person’s life in danger by using a dangerous device or weapon, the crime constitutes armed bank robbery.

Here, the defendant argued that the minimum amount of force needed to convict a person of armed robbery was not sufficient to satisfy the physical force requirement of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). To be considered a violent felony under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), an element of the crime must be the attempted, threatened, or actual use of physical force against another person. In the subject case, the court found that even if a defendant was convicted of armed bank robbery due to the use of intimidation, intimidation was a sufficient amount of force to meet the elements of a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) convictions for armed bank robbery.

Consult a Diligent Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a crime involving the use of a firearm can result in significant penalties. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is prudent to consult a diligent Washington gun crime defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case and the defenses that you may be able to assert. The assertive criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Smith & White possess the skills and experience needed to develop compelling arguments to help you seek a favorable result. You can contact us via our form online or at 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.