Know Your Rights: What to Do When Pulled Over in Texas

When Is Robbery A Federal Crime?

The crime of robbery is a type of theft crime. According to current law, robbery is considered to be a class of theft that includes some act of violence or the threat of violence against one or more persons while committing the theft.

In the American legal system, robbery is typically handled in state court as a crime against a particular state. Every state and other jurisdiction of the United States has a local state-level robbery law that enables prosecution of robbery in a state court. In addition to state-level robbery, under federal law, there are certain classes of robbery crimes that are prosecuted in federal court as crimes against the United States federal government.

The General Elements Of The Crime Of Robbery

The general elements of the crime of robbery are consistent throughout the United States. To be found guilty of robbery, the government must prove that a defendant:

  • Took property belonging to others,
  • With the intent to steal the property,
  • Directly from the other person or persons or in their presence,
  • Against the other person or persons’ will,
  • Using violence or the threat of violence.

Depending on the actual statute a defendant is charged under, the state may have additional elements of the charged crime that must be proven in court.

The key distinction between robbery and other theft crimes is the requirement that the theft is accomplished through direct personal violence or the threat of direct personal violence. Because violence is the core element of the crime, all robbery crimes are serious and carry significant penalties on conviction. The violence used in committing the crime does not have to be deadly violence.


A jury can find that the government has proven the violence requirement if enough violence was used or threatened against a victim to force the victim to give up their property against their will. Every situation is different, and every jury must weigh the facts in evidence to determine if violence was used or threatened.

Federal Robbery Crimes

The United States has enacted a number of statutes that provide for certain robbery crimes against the federal government.

The following situations, in addition to the normal elements of the crime of robbery, can lead to prosecution under federal law:

  • Committing robbery by stealing any property belonging to the United States
  • Bank robbery (Banks are considered to be bank buildings and any building where a bank is located, for example inside a grocery store or big-box retailer)
  • Committing robbery against a federal employee or agent (for example, a postal employee)
  • Committing robbery of a controlled substance from any person registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency as a distributor of controlled substances (for example, robbing drugs from a pharmacy)
  • Carjacking any vehicle that can be used on interstate highways (this statute applies to a robbery of any vehicle that is used on the public roadways)

Federal robbery statutes can legally apply when the victim of the crime is a federal officer or someone registered to handle federal property or controlled substances under the law, or when the items that are stolen are either federal property or used in interstate transportation or commerce.

Sentencing And Penalties For Federal Robbery

Federal robbery crimes carry from ten years up to the death penalty under certain circumstances (for example, bank robbery resulting in death) per conviction.


Following a federal conviction, sentencing is always conducted by the federal trial judge. Unlike the Texas state court, there is no provision under federal law for the jury to conduct any sentencing. Federal sentencing is governed by sentencing guidelines under federal law and is very different than sentencing under state law. Understanding the multiple layers of federal sentencing is an essential tool for an effective federal criminal defense attorney in properly representing and advising a client facing a federal robbery case.

Contact An Experienced Federal Criminal Attorney To Defend You Against Federal Robbery Charges

A robbery charge under federal law involves all the complexities of the federal criminal court system. Defending against federal crimes involves criminal statutes and sentencing guidelines that are entirely different from the Texas state criminal court system. Effective defense of charges in federal court requires the help of an attorney who is experienced in the federal system.

It is also essential that you consult with an experienced federal criminal attorney as soon as possible when you have been arrested or questioned in connection to a federal robbery case. Moving quickly is key to protecting your rights, preserving essential evidence, and developing an effective defense to a federal case.

Contact Vinas & Graham, PLLC, today if you or a loved one has been charged with robbery in federal criminal court at (713) 229-9992. You can also follow us on Facebook.

Houston Criminal Law Firm