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What is Robbery?
Simply put, robbery means the unlawful taking of another’s person’s property by means of force or the threat of force. By federal statute (federal law), 18 USC 1951(b)(1), it is defined as: “Robbery” means the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his person or property, or property in his custody or possession, or the person or property of a relative or member of his family or of anyone in his company at the time of the taking or obtaining.
How can I be Charged with Robbery in Federal Court?
The answer is commerce.
What next?

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By federal statute (federal law), 18 USC 1951(b)(3), it is defined as:
“Commerce” means commerce within the District of Columbia, or any Territory or Possession of the United States; all commerce between any point in a State, Territory, Possession, or the District of Columbia and any point outside thereof; all commerce between points within the same State through any place outside such State; and all other commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction.

Where does the federal government get this broad power? The answer starts with the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 grants Congress the power to regulate commerce. Throughout the history of Commerce Clause regulation, much deference has been given to Congress’s broad ability to regulate activities that have an effect on interstate commerce.

What is the Hobbs Act?

The Hobbs Act, passed by Congress in 1946, makes it a federal crime to obstruct, delay, or affect commerce through robbery or extortion. “Commerce” is the federal jurisdictional hook that elevates robbery to a federal crime. The commerce hook grants jurisdiction for all robberies that Congress’s Commerce Clause power reaches.


Unfortunately, the answer is not much.

The Hobbs Act speaks in broad language, and the tie to interstate commerce may be satisfied by a showing of a very slight effect on interstate commerce or even a potential or subtle effect on commerce.

The answer is no. The government need not prove that it was the defendant’s purpose to effect interstate commerce; it suffices that their conduct had that natural effect.

Some Examples:

  1. If a business purchases or sells items that travel in interstate commerce, then it is engaged in interstate commerce. Where a person commits an offense against a business which engages in interstate commerce, the nexus will be met.
    1. Common items that travel in interstate commerce: gas, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, cellular telephones, condoms, firearms, etc.


  1. Depletion of Assets Theory. When a person’s illegal acts deplete a store’s assets, which affects the store’s ability to purchase commodities that travel in interstate commerce, the nexus is satisfied.


  1. Business Closure. When a person’s illegal act forces a store to close, which hinders the store from purchasing commodities that travel in interstate commerce, the nexus is satisfied.
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