The Hobbs Act
Defending a Hobbs Act Violation – 18 U.S.C § 1951
The Hobbs Act, codified at 18 U.S.C § 1951, is a federal law that was enacted in 1946. It was originally used to curtail racketeering in labor disputes, which was a common phenomenon at that time.
Today, the Hobbs Act is commonly used by federal prosecutors to target public corruption, street gangs, commercial disputes, and union corruption. It increases the penalties associated with the criminal offenses of robbery and extortion, are any attempt to commit these crimes when they affect or impede interstate or foreign commerce in “any way or degree.”
What is a Hobbs Act Violation?
18 U.S.C § 1951 makes it a federal crime to affect interstate commerce in any way or degree by engaging in any of the following criminal offenses:
- Extortion by force or the threat of force;
- Extortion under color of official right, or in other words, by using a public office that one holds to unfairly influence someone to part with money or property.
- Robbery, which is generally defined as unlawfully depriving someone of property, either without their consent or by force, violence, or threat.
What Must Be Proven to Convict You of Violating The Hobbs Act?
To convict a defendant of violating the Hobbs Act, the government is not required to prove that the defendant intended to affect interstate commerce, or that he knew that his actions would affect interstate commerce—or even that interstate commerce was actually affected. Federal prosecutors only need to prove that the natural consequences of the offense would be an effect on interstate commerce, however slight.
Penalties for a Hobbs Act Violation
A Hobbs Act violation carries stringent criminal penalties. Each violation carries the potential for a severe financial penalty and up to 20 years in a federal prison, or both. This is in addition to the penalties for the underlying extortion or robbery charge.
Defending a Hobbs Act Violation
There are several potential strategies a skilled white-collar defense attorney may use to address a Hobbs Act charge, including the following:
- the defendant did not commit or conspire to commit the crimes in question;
- the defendant’s actions were not of a criminal nature;
- the defendant’s conduct did not affect interstate commerce in any way or to any degree;
- the defendant’s actions did not amount to extortion by force or an attempt or conspiracy to extort by force;
- the defendant’s actions did not amount to extortion by color of office; and
- the defendant did not rob or attempt to rob anyone
Federal cases can present unique challenges. Federal prosecutors may use investigative techniques such as wiretaps, video surveillance, and cooperating witnesses. Often federal investigators have been pursuing the case against a defendant for years by the time they are charged. To defend against these types of charges, you need an insightful strategy and a white-collar criminal defense team with experience handling complex federal cases and that will protect your rights.
Consult with an Experienced White-Collar Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with or are under investigation for violating the Hobbs Act, or suspect that you will be, contact Freeman Law to arrange a consultation.