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federal crimes

Supreme Court Ruling Implies All Robberies are Federal Crimes

By Peek & Toland on September 8, 2016

The recent Supreme Court ruling of Taylor v. United States suggests all robberies can be federal crimes. Understandable, it has drawn plenty of criticism.

The case concerned David Taylor, a man involved in two gang-related robberies at homes in Virginia. He robbed two drugs dealers and intended to take narcotics and drug proceeds but ended up with just two cellphones, jewelry, about $40 in cash and one marijuana cigarette.

Nevertheless, Taylor was prosecuted and subsequently convicted under the Hobbs Act, a federal law which “prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce.”

Supreme court case suggests all robberies are federal crimes

Defense attorneys acting for Taylor argued his crimes did not merit prosecution under the Hobbs Act, legislation originally enacted in 1946 in response to the New York Teamsters union’s robbery spree on the highways.

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed Taylor’s conviction in June. The justices argued that the federal government has jurisdiction over marijuana and its intrastate aspects.

The Supreme Court held 7-1 that “commerce” under the Hobbs Act is all interstate commerce over which the federal government has jurisdiction

The decision implies any robbery is also a federal crime. The involvement of federal judges in local robbery cases alarmed John-Michael Siebler writing in The Daily Signal. He warned disparate enforcement and punishment is a likely consequence and federal judges are already overworked.

He argued the case demonstrated the need for the reform of the Hobbs Act which punishes actions that are already criminal in every case.

Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter in the Supreme Court decision. He argued allowing the federal government to police “simple home robbery” threatens to encroach on the traditional police powers of the states, thus subverting some of the basic principles of dual sovereignty and federalism. He said the Hobbs Act should only come into play when a robbery interferes with interstate commerce and robberies should not necessarily be federal crimes.

The case of Taylor v United States raises a number of concerns in Texas, not least the fear making all robberies federal crimes will lead to even greater levels of incarceration in federal prisons. The Hill raises the specter of federal incarceration for small scale robberies following the ruling, increasing prison overcrowding.

Robbery is a theft crime but it’s treated more seriously than most other theft crimes because of the presence or threat of violence. To commit the crime in Texas, the defendant must intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause bodily injury to the victim or threatened the victim or caused him to fear bodily injury or death.

If you have been charged with robbery in Austin, San Marcos, Round Rock or elsewhere, you could be facing a long jail sentence, particularly if it is being prosecuted at the federal level. You should not try to fight these serious charges alone. At Peek & Toland , we have decades of expertise in defending theft crimes. Please contact us here for a consultation.

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