Weinstein Law Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Feds on the Street

Expansion of the Hobbs Act

In Taylor v. U.S., the Supreme Court of the United States significantly expanded the bounds of federal jurisdiction over robberies.  Under the Hobbs Act, it a federal crime to commit a robbery that 'affects' 'commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction.' 18 U. S. C. §§1951(a), 1951(b)(3).  Justice Thomas clearly stated the ruling of the majority in his dissent:

"Under the Court's decision [], the Government can obtain a Hobbs Act conviction without proving that the defendant's robbery in fact affected interstate commerce — or any commerce. The Court's holding creates serious constitutional problems and extends our already expansive, flawed commerce-power precedents."

In this case, Anthony Taylor, was convicted with evidence that that he attempted to rob two marijuana dealers of their drugs and drug money.  The Supreme Court then granted certiorari "to resolve a conflict in the Circuits regarding the demands of the Hobbs Act's commerce element in cases involving the theft of drugs and drug proceeds from drug dealers."

Justice Alito, writing for the majority, stated that "this case requires us to decide what the Government must prove to satisfy the Hobbs Act's commerce element when a defendant commits a robbery that targets a marijuana dealer's drugs or drug proceeds." He then continued: "

"[T]he Commerce Clause gives Congress authority to regulate the national market for marijuana, including the authority to proscribe the purely intrastate production, possession, and sale of this controlled substance. Because Congress may regulate these intrastate activities based on their aggregate effect on interstate commerce, it follows that Congress may also regulate intrastate drug theft. And since the Hobbs Act criminalizes robberies and attempted robberies that affect any commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction, §1951(b)(3), the prosecution in a Hobbs Act robbery case satisfies the Act's commerce element if it shows that the defendant robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds. By targeting a drug dealer in this way, a robber necessarily affects or attempts to affect commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction."

The Court’s decision means that all drugs may be considered to be sold interstate and thus the Hobbs Act applies.  The meaning of this decision is simple: an expansion of federal jurisdiction to local street crime.


If you are facing federal prosecution, contact me immediately. 

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As a former prosecutor, I fully understand the power law enforcement has. As a trial attorney, I know the law seems very scary.