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August 20, 2022

US Sentencing Commission reports on "Federal Robbery: Prevalence, Trends, And Factors In Sentencing"

The US Sentencing Commission has released this new research report that provides a "comprehensive study of robbery offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2021 provides an analysis of the characteristics of robbery offenders, their criminal history, and their sentences imposed."  Additional background and Key Findings are available at this USSC webpage, and here are some highlights from that page:

The report also provides analyses on the prevalence of robbery offenses and how they were committed, including who was robbed, what was taken, the use or threatened use of physical force, the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon, and whether any victim was injured or killed during a robbery.

This report builds upon the Commission’s recent observations regarding the high recidivism rates among federal robbery offenders.

Key Findings

  • Robbery offenders have consistently comprised a small but increasing proportion of the federal criminal caseload.
    • During fiscal years 2012 to 2021, the proportion of robbery offenders increased from 1.9 percent to 2.3 percent of the federal caseload....
  • Robbery offenders have criminal histories that are more extensive and more serious than other violent offenders.
    • Only one-quarter (26.5%) of robbery offenders were in the least serious criminal history category, CHC I, compared to 40.7 percent of other violent offenders....
  • Robbery offenders often engaged in dangerous aggravating conduct. In fiscal year 2021, a majority of robbery offenses involved dangerous weapons and threats of physical force against a victim.
    • Over three-quarters (77.6%) of robberies involved dangerous weapons. Firearms were the predominant type of weapon — they were present in 79.8 percent of robberies involving weapons.
    • The overwhelming majority (89.7%) of robberies involved a threat of physical force against a victim, and over one-quarter (25.7%) involved the use of physical force against a victim. A victim sustained bodily injury in 11.8 percent of robberies.
  • Robbery offenders received substantial sentences—on average 105 months of imprisonment in fiscal year 2021 — but sentences varied significantly depending upon whether the offender was also convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
    • A substantial proportion (40.6%) of robbery offenders sentenced in fiscal year 2021 also had a conviction under section 924(c) for using or carrying a firearm during the offense.
    • The average sentence imposed for robbery offenders also convicted under section 924(c) was 155 months of imprisonment, compared to an average sentence of 71 months for robbery offenders without a section 924(c) conviction.

August 20, 2022 at 05:44 PM | Permalink


One thing that I would like to see more of from USSC (and not sure it is within their purview, but I am also not sure who else would do it), would be a comparison (both for robbery and controlled substances) between federal offenders and state offenders. Most bank robberies could either go federal or state, and the same is true for many drug offenses. I am not sure (other than the whim of the police agency in making a referral) that there is any clear criteria (at least not public criteria) for that decision. So I would like to know if there is a difference between the offenders showing up in the federal pool vs. the offenders who face state charges or in any key offense characteristics.

Posted by: tmm | Aug 22, 2022 10:40:18 AM

Excellent idea, tmm. The new USSC may call for comment on priorities... you should suggest this kind of research program. (I'd add that child porn is another relatively common offense that can and does get comparably prosecuted -- but not often comparably sentenced -- in state and federal systems.)

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 22, 2022 11:20:35 AM

Given that most robberies won't have a federal hook I would (just as a guess) have to suspect that robbery defendants facing federal charges comprise a much more serious cohort than the set of all robbery offenders. I'm actually somewhat surprised that robbery is even the approximately 2% of the federal caseload quoted here.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Aug 22, 2022 7:06:57 PM

True Soronel. But speaking as a career state prosecutor, I have had felon in possession cases, large scale drug cases, bank robberies, and child pornography cases that were kept in state court. But I also know that, sometimes, the feds take these cases. While bank robberies are a subset of all robberies, I still wonder for all of these categories whether there is a key difference between those charged federally and those charged in state courts or is it simply the whim of the police departments deciding which prosecutor they are sending the case to.

Posted by: tmm | Aug 23, 2022 10:25:51 AM

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