Friday, August 31, 2012

More from Court on Hobbs Act Sufficiency

In US v. Powell, No. 11-2432 (Aug. 30, 2012), the Court looks again at sufficiency of the evidence to prove interstate commerce in a Hobbs Act prosecution. Powell and his co-defendant followed merchants from their businesses to their homes to rob them. The Court characterized the question on appeal as: whether a robbery of an individual in her home requires proof of a more substantial connection to interstate commerce than a robbery committed at a place of business. Here, because Powell specifically targeted his victims because they were business owners and he believed they would be in possessions of business proceeds, his crimes satisfied the Hobbs Act’s jurisdictional nexus. The natural consequence of this would be an actual or potential effect on interstate commerce. The Court also noted that the convictions could have been sustained under a "depletion of assets" theory.

Giving the Third Circuit model instruction in this case was appropriate (the defense had wanted an instruction that when the robbery takes place in a home, the effect on commerce must be substantial). In the Court’s view, this case demonstrates the hazard in adopting any bright-line rule about business v. personal premises in Hobbs Act cases. Each case must be decided on its facts, the Court notes, citing examples of cases that have not been held to fulfil the jurisdictional nexus.

See the Court's opinion earlier this week in Shavers for more on the Hobbs Act & ISC.

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