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.
- 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.
- Common items that travel in interstate commerce: gas, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, cellular telephones, condoms, firearms, etc.
- 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.
- 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.