Robbery Of Two Tellers At Same Bank Results in Two Convictions

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: IA multiple convictions for single bank robbery.

State of Iowa v. Randy Mitchell Copenhaver. IA multiple convictions for single bank robbery.

The Copenhaver case was one of three cases decided the same day by the Iowa Supreme Court, all of which involved the issue of whether the defendant's actions constituted a single continuous offense, or separate offenses. The other two cases were State v. Ross and State v. Gines, both of which held that a series of gunshots constituted a single offense of intimidation under Iowa Code 708.6.

In Copenhaver, Randy Mitchell Copenhaver was convicted of robbing the Community Savings Bank in Cedar Rpaids, Iowa. The Linn County District Court had convicted him of two robberies, since he separately robbed two tellers. He appealed to the Iowa Court of Appeals and then to the Iowa Supreme Court, arguing that only a single robbery had taken place.

The Iowa Supreme Court distinguished Ross and Gines and affirmed the conviction.

The court first examined the robbery statute, Iowa Code section 711.1, and noted that the offense consisted of the requisite intent, along with an assault or threat. In this case, Copenhaver approached each teller individually and changed location to the second teller's window. In addition, there was an interval of time between the two acts. In addition, there were two separate victims. Copenhaver argued that there was only a single victim, namely, the bank. But since the statute defines theft as taking possession or control of property, the court held that there were two victims, since he took money from the possession of each teller separately.

For these reasons, the Court held that the evidence supported the jury's finding of two separate robberies, and affirmed the judgment.

Justices Mansfield and Waterman dissented. They argued that the robbery statute was written with the backdrop of the common-law "single-larceny rule", as set forth in cases such as State v. Broderick, 191 Iowa 717, 183 N.W. 310 (1921) and State v. Sampson, 157 Iowa 257, 138 N.W. 473 (1912).

No. 11-1616 (Iowa Mar. 21, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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