Shooting employees while robbing a bank -- likely sentence?

Two days ago, 3 employees of a Fort Worth bank were shot during a robbery. All three victims are expected to survive, although with serious injuries. This hits close to home for us, as my wife is a former employee, and has several friends working there. She’s still getting information from friends about what happened, but most were working in back and only heard the shots. Latest news is they’ve arrested the perps, but no info on who/what/charges/etc. yet.

IANAL, nor in any way knowledgeable about the legal system, but this seems to rank pretty high in the “serious crimes” scale. I think this is a federal crime, and shooting the employees while robbing a bank seems likely to earn someone a lengthy stay in a “gated community”.

So just spitballing, I ask the SDMB members with any legal knowledge; What are likely sentences for a crime of this level? Could the perp(s) get life? ISTR that the feds aren’t keen on parole, so I assume they’ll serve the full sentence. What normally happens in a crime of this level?

To be honest, one interesting bit here is that robbing a bank is a Federal level offense. Which sounds bad, but in practice, Federal prisons are usually better managed, nicer, and most importantly there is significantly less inmate on inmate assaults.

Texas prisons are some of the worst in the country and until recently, were considered so bad that the state was considered to be violating the Constitutional rights of it’s prisoners. So the ironic thing is that while these robbers may never leave prison, they are likely going to be treated much better than if they had committed the same crimes on the local store down the street.

They will likely plead guilty to decades long sentences. I don’t know if any of them will be able to get a plea to a sentence short enough that they might possibly see the outside again as a released prisoner. (not really a “free man”, there’s no such thing in the modern justice system as convicted felons are not free. In the US, with no money you have no freedom to do anything but beg, and since almost no employer will hire a convicted felon, most of them have difficulty obtaining money without committing additional crimes. And they also can’t “freely” go to any other country for a similar reason)

IANAL. That said,

You can find the Federal Sentencing Guidelines here: It is a very arcane area of criminal law, and federal criminal defense attorneys more than earn their money, understanding all of the relevant departures from a sentence the Guidelines would command at first glance. The sentence is going to depend on lots of things, including whether the defendant cooperates with the Feds, the defendants’ prior criminal history, as defined by the Guidelines, and exactly what sorts of injuries the victims suffered. Spitballing, I’d guess a sentence at 264 months, and work up from there. Max in the Guidelines is 360 months or a life sentence.

Texas’s statute website from their legislature is annoyingly down at the moment. That said, from the AG’s website (, it looks like the offense of Aggravated Robbery would apply, as serious bodily injury was caused during the course of the robbery. Edit: Aggravated Robbery is a First Degree Felony and the penalty for one of those is 5-99 years, 15-99 if a repeat felony offender. I think they might be eligible for life imprisonment, but I’m not sure. I’m also not sure if there’s a firearm use penalty enhancement that would apply.

This assumes that some of the offenders don’t plead to lesser offenses. Or are found not guilty.

Things to note:

  1. Massive numbers of crimes are plea-bargained down to lesser crimes.
  2. There are massive variations among states as to the differences between sentences given and sentences actually served because of time off for good behavior and parole.

While the shooting will likely elevate the seriousness of the robbery charge it will also be a second offense along the lines of attempted murder. And attempted murder is a first degree felony commanding a serious sentence.

They could be charged with Murder. If I’m understanding Texas law correctly, an attempt to commit murder is legally equivalent of a murder. The fact that the victims survived would reduce the crime one category from Capital Murder.

This would open the possibility of charging them with Murder and then offering to reduce the charge to Aggravated Robbery as part of a plea bargain.

I’m not sure that’d help the state much, given that:

Attempt is dealt generally at Texas Penal Code § 15.01. Criminal Attempt ( and it reads:

So even if they were guilty of attempted murder, that’d be one category lower of punishment than Capital Murder, and that category is a First Degree Felony. Which is the same class of punishment as for Aggravated Robbery. Still, why not charge them with both?

Aggravated Robbery is at Tex. Pen. Code § 29.03. Aggravated Robbery, and reads:

Using the deadly weapon counts, even if it were to be found that serious bodily injury wasn’t inflicted.

EDIT: Huh, I’d sworn you didn’t have the cite for Attempt in your post. Sorry for inflicting the wall of text twice.

Thanks everyone for your answers. We were just curious how serious the law takes this in the grand scheme of things.

One final question: Why does Texas state law affect a federal crime? Is it likely they’ll be charged with both? (Attempted murder by Texas, and some kind of aggravated bank robbery charge by the feds?). Or do state officials prosecute federal crimes, just under a different set of rules?

When someone does something that’s an offense against both state and federal law, they can in principle be tried twice, once each in state and federal courts (or in principle multiple times, if multiple states are involved), and serve sentences for both. In practice, usually the state and federal prosecutors figure out which has the better case, and just handle it in that justice system and drop the charges in the other.

Odds are: charged with both, but only convicted of the Aggravated Robbery.

I’ve even heard it recently on a true-crime podcast I listen to: “Why was he only convicted of the (in his case) aggravated burglary rather than attempted murder?” There are two main reasons.

First, attempted murder (as opposed to attempted capital murder) would be only a second degree felony, carrying a penalty of 2-20 years in prison. Burglary is also a second degree felony, but an aggravating circumstance, like entering in order to commit an assault, bumps it up to a first degree felony, 5-99 years. So, without the capital circumstance, burglary or robbery is actually a higher level of offense.

Second, even where you have a choice between attempted capital murder and aggravated robbery, the robbery charge is easier to prove. See, with murder, you have to prove that the person attacked the victim with the intent to cause death. If the victim is dead, that intent is pretty plain, but where they’re only injured, a defendant could easily say, “I was just trying to scare him!” or, “I was just trying to calm her down and she kept grabbing my knife!” or whatever. Intent is tough. Much easier to prove robbery, which essentially requires just harm (or a threat to harm) and intent to take something, which is easy to infer when someone enters a bank with a gun and says “Put the money in the sack!” It’s the same with burglary (which I keep bringing up because I’ve actually tried an aggravated burglary and it’s similar): entering a habitation, with intent to commit a felony, an assault, or a theft. The elements are just less confusing for a jury and easier to prove.

If they are charged with aggravated robbery it depends on their priors. A similar question was asked on a prison talk forum and the consensus was 10-28 years depending on if there are priors or a plea bargain.