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3 North Carolina men convicted in armored car robbery

If you're neither a criminal defense attorney nor a seasoned criminal, you might assume that penalties for crimes are pretty much the same once you categorize them. For example, it would seem reasonable that all armed robbery convictions come with a similar amount of prison time. But there are so many variables within each incident that it can be hard to predict what sentence a defendant will face before charges are filed.

One of the determining factors is whether a crime falls under a state or federal statute. Federal charges often carry more serious penalties, something few defendants consider until they're arrested. In one recent case, three men from Person County, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to robbing an armored car last year. According to authorities, the men used firearms to rob an armored car that was parked outside a Bank of America branch automated teller machine in June 2011. They were accused of stealing more than $1.2 million from the vehicle.

Two of the men pleaded guilty on Monday to using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. They also pleaded guilty to violating the Hobbs Act, a federal law that prohibits robbery affecting interstate commerce. The Hobbs Act, passed in 1946, was originally intended to combat labor racketeering and organized crime, but in recent years it's been used to prosecute armed robbers who commit crimes against businesses. The penalties of the Hobbs Act are much harsher than in local prosecutions, and since there's no parole under the federal system, a defendant receiving a federal sentence will serve a full prison term.

The third man involved in the armored car robbery pleaded guilty in April to the same charges as the other two. He's expected to be sentenced in August, and his accomplices will be sentenced in September. All three men face sentences of up to life in federal prison and a fine as high as $500,000.

Given the severity of a federal sentence, it's in the best interest of those accused of crimes like these to consult with an attorney with proven experience in defending them. Whether you admit to the crime like these men did or are wrongly accused, you can't afford to gamble with your future.

Source: WRAL.com, "Person pair plead guilty to robbing armored car," June 4, 2012

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