If you don’t show a weapon, is it really a robbery?

Police say that a man, alone in a car, drove up to a teller window at the Lone Star National Bank in Texas. He slipped the teller a note. Exactly what it said has not been revealed, but it caused the teller to hand him an undetermined amount of cash. He then drove away. At no point did the man display a weapon.

Big Gary asks: But if you just say, "Give me money," and you don't display a weapon, and you aren't in any position to hurt anybody, it's not really a robbery, it's a gift, right?

I don't think so. I'm pretty sure it's illegal to lead a bank teller to believe you may be trying to rob the bank, even if you're joking or make no specific threat. (Though specific laws probably vary state by state.) After all, how does the teller know you're not serious, or that you don't have a bomb wired to you?

In the April Fool's Day Database I record a case from 2006 in which a 57-year-old woman walked into a bank on April 1st and handed the teller a note that said, "I'm here to take money." It was a joke. She was there to withdraw money (legally) from her own account. Nevertheless, the police later tracked her down and charged her with disorderly conduct.

Banks are kinda like airports. All potential security threats are taken seriously. Even jokes.


Posted on Wed Mar 18, 2009


If you just take money, it's robbery. If you display a weapon or, in some other manner, make it appear that you have or may have a weapon, or threaten use of a weapon, it is armed robbery.
Posted by logic fan  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  11:22 AM
By your standard, Alex, I rob a bank frequently. I drive up to the Motor Bank, put a note requesting money (also known as a withdrawal slip) into the pneumatic tube, and the teller gives me some cash. Like the guy in Pharr, Texas, I don't have a weapon and I don't make any threat. Of course, I have an account at this bank, and the bank deducts the money I take from my account balance. But essentially, I'm doing the same thing the April Fool's Day woman did, am I not?
Posted by Big Gary  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  12:02 PM
Big Gary -- I guess it all depends on how the "withdrawal slip" is phrased.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  03:05 PM
But essentially, I'm doing the same thing the April Fool's Day woman did, am I not?

-- Big Gary

No, you're not really. What you do follows ordinary banking procedures, and is clear of purpose. What she did was neither. Plus, it seems that she did it with the actual intent to confuse the teller and leave ambiguity as to her purpose. Which is why your actions are considered proper, while she was charged with disorderly conduct.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  03:44 PM
Why would you give someone asking for the money at a drive-up?? I mean...what are they going to do? Park & run in? You could have the doors locked by then, I bet.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  07:22 PM
"Reductio ad absurdum".....So, when a beggar holds his hand out, asking for money, appealing to my guilt response, (but no weapon or note), if I give him money, it's an act of robbery, I was emotionally coerced. If I feel threatened, even slightly, then it's "armed" robbery.
I really don't get this one. The teller was inside the bank, completely safe, why did he/she just not tell the bank robber to stuff it? There must have been some threat, a bomb, or something personal.
Posted by Canadarm  on  Wed Mar 18, 2009  at  11:16 PM
yes, it is
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Mar 19, 2009  at  08:53 AM
There are too many unknowns to even comment on the case... Unknown note, unknown amount of money. Are they sure it even happened, or is that slightly unknown?

It all depends on what the note said. He could have wrote "I will kill your kids, Jane Doe, if you do not give me money". Probably without the proper punctuation, but still - that would motivate her to comply. So, show me the note!
Posted by Sherlock  on  Thu Mar 19, 2009  at  12:17 PM
In Nebraska if you take the money knowing it isn't yours it is against the law.

A guy was arrested in the late 70s or early 80s in Omaha for taking a bag of money the teller handed him. It turned out that someone had written "this is a stickup. Give me your money" on the blank deposit slips. Since he took the money knowing it wasn't his he was arrested by the cops.
Posted by ALittleRusty  on  Fri Mar 20, 2009  at  03:38 PM
Couldn't that be contested, though? "They handed me the money, so I thought they were giving it to me, and therefore, I thought it was mine."
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Tue Mar 24, 2009  at  03:56 PM
i can see a spectrum of interpretations here, and the 57 year old woman's note kind of lies in that grey area where she could probably defend herself in court to some point, but the jury could still slap her with some negative verdict. imagine what happens if this kind of activity becomes legally upheld. it may spur the creation of a new criminal class who begin their stick ups with this phrase, to maximize their criminal activity with minimal effort, and only escalating to physical threats when the victims don't comply.
Posted by fiberglass entry doors  on  Fri Jan 01, 2010  at  09:54 PM
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