Accused of Using a Weapon During a Bank Robbery

Accused of aggravated bank robbery with a weapon.

Bank robbery is a serious crime, especially when weapons are involved. In the U.S., this type of crime is often handled by federal law.


According to the FBI, weapons are used in nearly 40% of bank robberies, which makes the crime even more serious.

bank robbery

Federal Bank Robbery Act and its Ramifications

Bank robbery, under federal law, is defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). The law states that anyone who "takes or attempts to take... by force and violence, or by intimidation from the person or presence of another" from a bank can be convicted of bank robbery.


A conviction under this statute can lead to a sentence of up to twenty years in prison. But let's focus on the weapon aspect. The punishment escalates if the alleged criminal uses a "dangerous weapon or device," as per 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d). The twenty-year maximum jumps to twenty-five.

Deciphering 'Weapons': A Broad Definition in Bank Robbery Cases

In the context of a bank robbery, a "weapon" can be broadly defined. The typical image that comes to mind might be a gun or a knife. However, the definition is much more comprehensive under Arizona state and federal laws.


According to 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), it's a further offense if an individual jeopardizes their life by using a "dangerous weapon or device" during a bank robbery. This is purposefully broad and is interpreted by the courts on a case-by-case basis.


A "dangerous weapon or device" can include traditional weapons like guns and knives and objects not inherently dangerous but used in a manner that could potentially cause harm or fear.


Under Arizona law, particularly Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-105, a "deadly weapon" is defined as anything designed for lethal use, including a firearm. The term "dangerous instrument" is also used, and this means anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury. This could include baseball bats, crowbars, or a realistic-looking toy gun.


So, in essence, whether an object is considered a "weapon" in a bank robbery can depend heavily on the object itself, its use, and its intent. It's also important to remember that even if a weapon isn't used to harm anyone physically, merely displaying or implying a weapon to create fear or coerce can be sufficient for enhanced charges.


As always, these complex legal definitions can significantly impact a case. It's essential to consult with a legal professional for advice specific to a given situation.

Even though you might think these scenarios seem far-fetched, they can and do happen. What’s important to remember is that, regardless of the situation, the presence of illicit drugs can land you in serious legal trouble.

Contact us today to schedule a
how we can help you.

Arizona’s State Laws and Their Influence

Beyond federal law, Arizona state law also has something to say about bank robbery if it involves a weapon.


The Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-1903 and § 13-1904 outline the charges for armed robbery and aggravated robbery. If you use or even imply using a deadly weapon, a simple robbery charge can quickly evolve into an aggravated or armed robbery charge.


Arizona takes this very seriously. An aggravated robbery charge is a class 3 felony, while an armed robbery charge is a class 2 felony


How Do Armed Robbery and Aggravated Robbery Charges Differ?

In Arizona law, aggravated robbery and armed robbery are not interchangeable terms - they define distinct offenses with corresponding penalties that differ notably.


A charge of armed robbery is typically brought when the alleged offender, or an accomplice, wields a deadly or dangerous weapon and either uses it or threatens to use it. Deadly instruments aren't limited to obvious choices like guns or knives. They can also be other items capable of inflicting severe harm, such as a brick or a crowbar.


Interestingly, the category of armed robbery can also apply to cases where a fake weapon is used. Any object, even as innocuous as a banana hidden underneath a shirt, could simulate a deadly weapon and induce fear during a robbery. The same applies to a hand concealed in a jacket pocket to give the impression of a hidden firearm or even a child's toy designed to resemble a real gun.


What's crucial in armed robbery cases is that the actual use or explicit threats with the weapon isn't a prerequisite for the charges. The mere possession of the actual or simulated weapon during the act is sufficient grounds for the authorities to level an armed robbery charge rather than one for aggravated robbery.

The Intricacies of Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Once you are charged with using a weapon during a bank robbery, your sentencing will be calculated using the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Specifically, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines § 2B3.1 applies.


According to this guideline, the base level for a robbery offense is 20. However, if a dangerous weapon was used, displayed, or possessed, 5 years are added. The seriousness of your crime, your criminal history, and other factors can cause this level to rise or fall, potentially affecting your potential sentence. 

armed robbery

Defenses to Armed Robbery

When faced with an armed robbery charge, it's essential to understand the potential defenses that may be available to you. These defenses aren't one-size-fits-all, and their application and success can significantly vary based on each case's unique facts and circumstances. Remember, a charge is not a conviction; everyone can present a defense.


The following discusses some potential defenses to an armed robbery charge.

  • Misidentification

    One of the most common defenses in armed robbery cases is asserting that the accused has been wrongly identified as the perpetrator. This can often occur due to eyewitness testimony errors or surveillance footage misinterpretation.

  • Lack of Evidence

    The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the robbery and used a weapon during the commission of the crime. A defense can be built around this if the evidence is insufficient or unreliable.

  • No Intent to Rob

    If the defendant can prove there was no intention to rob the bank, this can serve as a defense. However, this might be challenging to prove, mainly if a weapon was involved.

  • No Use or Threat of Force

    For a conviction of armed robbery, it must be proven that the defendant used or threatened to use force. If this element can be disputed, it could form a part of the defense.

  • The Weapon Wasn't Dangerous

    If the defendant can demonstrate that the supposed weapon was not dangerous or deadly or was incapable of causing fear, the charges might be reduced.

  • Duress or Coercion

    If the defendant was coerced or forced into committing the robbery by someone else who threatened harm if they didn't comply, this could potentially serve as a defense.

Remember, these are complex legal defenses that should be explored under the guidance of a competent defense attorney. It's crucial to understand that each case is unique, so the availability and success of these defenses can vary significantly based on the circumstances.

How a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

At the Kolsrud Law Office, our federal criminal defense attorneys have years of experience tackling these cases. We will help you understand the intricacies of federal and Arizona state laws and guide you through the judicial system, ensuring you receive the fairest treatment possible.


Understanding how serious a bank robbery charge can be is daunting, especially when a weapon is involved. It has potential pitfalls and repercussions that could drastically change your life. However, you can overcome this with the proper guidance, knowledge, and legal expertise. At Kolsrud Law Office, we're committed to helping you do that.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

Get a Free Initial Consultation:

Complete our form below to get a free case review.
or call us at (480) 999-9444.