Magazine article American Banker

Statehouse Report: Mass.: Mass. Group Promotes Bill to Punish Robbers More

Magazine article American Banker

Statehouse Report: Mass.: Mass. Group Promotes Bill to Punish Robbers More

Article excerpt

Bank robbers in Massachusetts will have more time to contemplate their crimes if a bill being pushed by the Massachusetts Bankers Association becomes law.

The legislation was introduced this month by Rep. James Vallee, a Democrat, and would sentence first-time bank robbers who pass a note to a teller to at least 30 months behind bars. Those using a disguise, claiming to have a weapon, or brandishing one would face sentences of at least five years.

The bill's passage would make Massachusetts the third state to impose mandatory sentences for bank robbery. West Virginia has a minimum sentence of 10 years for bank robberies made "by force or violence," and in June of last year Washington State instituted a law requiring a jail term of 31 months for first-time bank robbers.

Daniel J. Forte, the Massachusetts Bankers Associations president and chief executive officer, said the minimum sentences are necessary for two reasons.

First, many robbers hold up several banks before being caught but are treated as first-time offenders. So serial criminals get light sentences despite having committed multiple crimes. Second, though federal sentencing is tougher than the states' -- averaging eight to 12 years -- first-time robbers are often tried in state courts, which are usually more lenient.

The legislation grew out of a task force formed by the Massachusetts Bankers Association in response to a 70% rise in bank robberies from 2000 to 2001.

Last year robberies of banks, credit unions, and armored cars fell 15%, to 225. …

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