Seventh Circuit Criminal Case of the Week: Carrying Unloaded Gun During Bank Robbery Puts Teller’s Life in Jeopardy
Simple bank robbery carries a maximum sentence of twenty years, but armed bank robbery has an enhanced maximum of twenty-five. Should a robbery be considered armed, though, when the robber carries an unloaded weapon?
It turns out that the armed bank robbery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), can be satisfied in either of two different ways. First, a robber qualifies for increased punishment by committing an assault. As the Seventh Circuit indicated many years ago in United States v. Smith, 103 F.3d 600 (7th Cir. 1996), the assault prong of the statute is satisfied when a teller has a reasonable fear of imminent bodily injury. Brandishing a gun — loaded or unloaded — seems almost certain to create such a fear.
The second prong, though, raises a closer question.