Police Arrest Brian Hickson for Alleged Robbery of Bank in Coulee Dam

Today in The Star Newspaper, there was an interesting story about a man arrested for an alleged robbery of a bank in Okanogan County.  The man, Brian Hickson, allegedly walked into a Coulee Dam bank and handed the teller a note that read “Give me your money.”  The teller refused saying “I can’t do that,” and Brian Hickson left.  The police stated that Hickson later told them it was a “prank”.

So does that constitute an attempted robbery?  Under Washington law, a person commits robbery when he “takes personal property from the person of another or in his presence against his will by the use or threatened use of immediate force, violence, or fear of injury….”  Was the alleged statement made by Brian Hickson a threat?

This case kind of reminds me about a case that went to the Supreme Court a few years ago called State v. Collinsworth.    In that case the defendant entered Washington Mutual Bank and approached the teller and demanded money.  He appeared to be “very nervous” and “fidgety,” told the teller in a “serious” tone of voice, “I need your hundreds, fifties and twenties.”   When the teller paused, unsure of what to do, Collinsworth said, “I’m serious.” As the teller started retrieving currency, Collinsworth said, “No bait, no dye.”  The Supreme Court explained that even though he made no overt threatening gestures and did not display a weapon, Collinsworth’s unequivocal demands for immediate surrender of the bank’s money, under the circumstances of the case , were sufficient to support a robbery conviction.

However, those circumstances appear to be different than the incident Brian Hickson was charged with.  When Collinsworth was charged, he was a bit more forceful with his point, and made explicit references to the dye that is used to deter crimes such as robberies.  It will be interesting to see what comes of this case.   I don’t think a jury will expect a teller to have a sense of humor about Mr. Hickson’s “prank”,  but on the other hand there doesn’t seem to be an clear legal precedent to support a robbery charge under Washington law.  It may be that the jurors will be given the option of considering a lesser charge.

By Steve Graham.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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