Simple, Aggravated, Hobbs Act, and Bank Robbery

What is the definition of Robbery?

A robbery involves theft of property in the presence of another person, and the offender uses or threatens to use force to take the property against the owner’s will. Burglary, in contrast, involves entering a building or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime, like theft.

In Minnesota, there are two kinds of Robbery:

  • A) Simple Robbery: theft of property in the presence of another person, and uses or threatens to use force.
  • B) Aggravated Robbery: theft of property from another person with the threat of, or actual use of a dangerous weapon, like a gun.

The penalties for Aggravated Robbery are higher because of the dangerous weapon element, but both are felonies, and very serious. An example of a simple robbery would be pushing someone down or threatening to hit them, and then taking their cell phone. If there’s a gun involved in anyway, even mentioned, then it becomes aggravated.

In Federal Court there are also two kinds of robbery:

A) Interference with Interstate Commerce by Means of Robbery (also known as Hobbs Act Robbery); and

B) Bank Robbery.

In order to convict someone of Hobbs Act Robbery, the Government must prove:

  • 1.
    That on a specific date, the defendant knowingly robbed or attempted to rob (take property by real or threatened force) a specific place, person, or entity;
  • 2.
    The robbery involved specific property, e.g. cash;
  • 3.
    The property taken was in the custody or possession of the victim person, place, or entity;
  • 4.
    The Defendant’s actions obstructed, delayed, or otherwise affected commerce in some way or degree.

So what does that all mean? Especially the part about interstate commerce? Well, in order for the federal government to get involved, there has to be some part of the action of robbery which, in any manner or to any agree interferes with, changes, or alters the movement or transportation or flow of goods, merchandise, money or other property in between states. The effect can be minimal, and can include:

  • The robbery of a business covered by an out-of-state insurer
  • Loss of sales of an out-of-state commercial product
  • Business slowdown as a result of the robbery
  • the temporary closing of a business to recover from the robbery

As long as the business dealt with goods that moved through “commerce.” What does that mean? Among other things, commerce means travel, trade, transportation, and communication between any point within a state and any place outside of that state. What this means in practice is that any robbery of a business could be charged in federal court since virtually all businesses these days have some connection beyond their own state.

Coffee Shop Hobbs Act Robbery in Minneapolis

Two buddies decide to go into a local coffee shop and rob it. One of the guys has a gun and shoves it in the face of the barista behind the counter. The other guy ties up the barista and locks the front door. They go in the back and take all the cash out of the safe, as well as the register up front, and then leave out the front door and run. The barista was shaken but ultimately ok; both men were charged with Hobbs Act Robbery because the coffee beans that made the coffee in the shop traveled in “interstate commerce” meaning they came from out of state (coffee doesn’t grow in the Midwest), the Government thus had jurisdiction. Both men went to prison.

Bank Robbery is more straightforward and everybody has a picture in their head of what bank robbery is. Obviously people have visions of Hollywood movies and crime tv shows, with a couple of men in face masks come charging into a large bank lobby with guns brandished. More often, however, bank robberies are committed more subtly; for example by passing a threatening note to a teller.

In order for the Government to convict someone of bank robbery, it must prove:

  • 1.
    The defendant took or attempted to take property from another person, or in that person’s presence while that person was in the care or custody of a specific bank (usually the teller);
  • 2.
    Such taking or attempted taking was by force, violence, intimidation or threats;
  • 3.
    The deposits of the bank’s cash were insured by a federal insuring agency (like the FDIC).

While bank robbery in the movies can be exciting and involve police chases, shoot-outs or super-villains, in reality bank robberies don’t make the news because they are not flashy affairs. Robbery of any kind is a serious offense and can carry serious penalties, such as prison. However, there may be real defenses to robbery charges.

Catherine is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that defends against all charges of Robbery. If you or a loved one have been accused of Robbery in state or federal court, she can help. Call today for a free consultation.