Robbery sentencing guidelines

Updated April 17, 2017

Most robberies, such as muggings or the robbing of a local convenience store, are state crimes, and fall under state statutes and sentencing guidelines. Bank robberies and other robberies involving interstate planning or execution are federal crimes. Sentencing for these is under the aegis of federal statutes and case law and U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines.


West's Encyclopedia of American Law defines robbery as "the taking of money or goods from another, from his or her person or immediate presence, by force or intimidation." Robbery includes thefts from a simple street mugging to a complicated, long-planned bank heist.


Although state-robbery statutes vary, most differentiate between simple robbery and armed or aggravated robbery. Some states also have special statutory provisions and sentencing guidelines for robbery of vulnerable victims. Federal-robbery crimes include bank robbery, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2113, robbery of U.S. mail or government property, 18 U.S.C.A. §§ 2112, 2114, and obstructing interstate commerce through robbery, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1951. Sentencing for conviction under these federal statutes falls under federal sentencing guidelines.

Federal Guidelines

The federal-robbery sentencing guidelines are found at Section 2B3.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual. The robbery guidelines are grouped together with the sentencing guidelines for extortion and blackmail.

Offence Levels

The federal sentencing guidelines base offence level for robbery is 20. However, the ultimate offence level calculation varies widely depending on a number of significant factors: whether a weapon was used or brandished; whether anyone was injured in the course of the robbery; and the dollar figure of the pelf acquired in the robbery. The more serious the weapon use or injuries resulting and the higher the value of the property acquired in the robbery, the higher the resulting offence level.

Sentencing Calculation

The federal sentencing guidelines for robbery are applied by matching the robbery offence level with the defendant's criminal history category on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual Sentencing Table. Robbery sentences are also likely to include a requirement of monetary restitution, where practical.

State Robbery Guideline Factors

State sentencing guidelines for property-related crimes such as robbery often include factors that are absent in federal sentencing guidelines. For example, the Wisconsin armed-robbery sentencing guideline worksheet directs judges to consider whether the robbery was motivated by a need for basic necessities--a mitigating factor--or by greed--an aggravating factor. Federal judges are precluded from considering motivation in applying the sentencing guidelines for robbery.

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About the Author

A freelance writer since 1978 and attorney since 1981, Cindy Hill has won awards for articles on organic agriculture and wild foods, and has published widely in the areas of law, public policy, local foods and gardening. She holds a B.A. in political science from State University of New York and a Master of Environmental Law and a J.D. from Vermont Law School.