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Hobbs Act robberies: What you should know

The Hobbs Act 18 U.S. Code § 1951 has been in existence since 1946, but many people aren't even aware that it exists until they've been charged with a crime under the act.

Back in the day, the Hobbs Act was aimed at racketeering that was problematic throughout the labor and management disputes at the time. Now, with the decline of unions, the Hobbs Act is more often used to charge public officials who abuse their official position and power to extort others into giving up their property. It also is sometimes aimed at ordinary people who are accused of using force, weapons, violence and terror to rob others.

Unlike simple embezzlement, the Hobbs Act requires either threats or violence. Some actions that might fall under the Hobbs Act include:

  • A politician threatens to bring a false-but-damaging public investigation against a company unless he or she is bribed.
  • A building inspector threatens to give a building a failing grade if the owner doesn't pay extortion money.
  • A restaurant safety inspector demands a payoff any time he wants one to not give a restaurant a failing health grade.
  • An official on a zoning board promises to nix a building permit unless she is paid off.
  • Robbery, assault and murder can even be charged under the Hobbs act, as can conspiracy to do any of those acts.

For example, one of the "Ghost Mask Armed Robbers" in Florida was recently charged under the Hobbs Act for violently attacking a bank teller to intimidate her into giving up the money the robbers sought.

Technically, the Hobbs Act requires the crime to interfere with interstate commerce, but the mere fact of depriving a business (like a bank) of their money prevents the victim from engaging in interstate commerce.

Any charges under the Hobbs Act need to be taken seriously. The penalties that go along with a federal conviction are fierce. Make certain that you obtain the counsel of an experienced white collar defense attorney.

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