February 23, 2016
TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE
Taylor was indicted under the Hobbs Act on two counts of
affecting commerce or attempting to do so through robbery for
his participation in two home invasions targeting marijuana
dealers. In both cases, Taylor and other gang members broke
into the homes, confronted the residents, demanded the
location of drugs and money, found neither, and left
relatively empty handed.
Taylor's trial resulted in a hung jury. At his retrial,
the Government urged the trial court to preclude Taylor from
offering evidence that the drug dealers he targeted dealt
only in locally-grown marijuana. The trial court excluded
that evidence and Taylor was convicted on both counts. The
Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that, given the aggregate
effect of drug dealing on interstate commerce, the Government
needed only to prove that Taylor robbed or attempted to rob a
drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds to satisfy the commerce
1. The prosecution in a Hobbs Act robbery case satisfies the
Act's commerce element if it shows that the defendant
robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug
proceeds. Pp. 4-9.
(a) The language of the Hobbs Act is unmistakably broad and
reaches any obstruction, delay, or other effect on commerce,
18 U.S.C. §1951(a), "over which the United States
has jurisdiction, " §1951(b)(3). See United
States v. Culbert, 435 U.S. 371, 373. Pp. 4-5.
(b) Under its commerce power, this Court has held, Congress
may regulate, among other things, activities that have a
substantial aggregate effect on interstate commerce, see
Wickardv. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111, 125. This includes
"purely local activities that are part of an economic
'class of activities' that have a substantial effect
on interstate commerce, " Gonzales v. Raich,
545 U.S. 1, 17, so long as those activities are economic in
nature. See United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598,
613. One such "class of activities" is the
production, possession, and distribution of controlled
substances. 545 U.S., at 22. Grafting the holding in
Raich onto the Hobbs Act's commerce element, it
follows that a robber who affects even the intrastate sale of
marijuana affects commerce over which the United States has
jurisdiction. Pp. 5-6.
(c) In arguing that Raich should be distinguished
because the Controlled Substances Act lacks the Hobbs
Act's additional commerce element, Taylor confuses the
standard of proof with the meaning of the element that must
be proved. The meaning of the Hobbs Act's commerce
element is a question of law, which, Raich
establishes, includes purely intrastate drug production and
sale. Applying, without expanding, Raich's
interpretation of the scope of Congress's Commerce Clause
power, if the Government proves beyond a reasonable doubt
that a robber targeted a marijuana dealer's drugs or
illegal proceeds, the Government has proved beyond a
reasonable doubt that commerce over which the United States
has jurisdiction was affected. Pp. 6-9.
2. Here, the Government met its burden by introducing
evidence that Taylor's gang intentionally targeted drug
dealers to obtain drugs and drug proceeds. That evidence
included information that the gang members targeted the
victims because of their drug dealing activities, as well as
explicit statements made during the course of the robberies
that revealed their belief that drugs and money were present.
Such proof is sufficient to meet the Hobbs Act's commerce
element. P. 9.
754 F.3d 217, affirmed.
J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C.
J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ.,
joined. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Hobbs Act makes it a crime for a person to affect commerce,
or to attempt to do so, by robbery. 18 U.S.C. §1951(a).
The Act defines "commerce" broadly as interstate
commerce "and all other commerce over which the United
States has jurisdiction." §1951(b)(3). This case
requires us to decide what the Government must prove to
satisfy the Hobbs Act's commerce element when a defendant
commits a robbery that targets a marijuana dealer's drugs
or drug proceeds.
answer to this question is straightforward and dictated by
our precedent. We held in Gonzales v. Raich, 545
U.S. 1 (2005), that the Commerce Clause gives Congress
authority to regulate the national market for marijuana,
including the authority to proscribe the purely intrastate
production, possession, and sale of this controlled
substance. Because Congress may regulate these intrastate
activities based on their aggregate effect on interstate
commerce, it follows that Congress may also regulate
intrastate drug theft. And since the Hobbs Act
criminalizes robberies and attempted robberies that affect
any commerce "over which the United States has
jurisdiction, " §1951(b)(3), the prosecution in a
Hobbs Act robbery case satisfies the Act's commerce
element if it shows that the defendant robbed or attempted to
rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds. By targeting a
drug dealer in this way, a robber necessarily affects or
attempts to affect commerce over which the United States has
case, petitioner Anthony Taylor was convicted on two Hobbs
Act counts based on proof that he attempted to rob marijuana
dealers of their drugs and drug money. We hold that this
evidence was sufficient to satisfy the Act's commerce
as early as 2009, an outlaw gang called the "Southwest
Goonz" committed a series of home invasion robberies
targeting drug dealers in the area of Roanoke, Virginia. 754
F.3d 217, 220 (CA4 2014). For obvious reasons, drug dealers
are more likely than ordinary citizens to keep large
quantities of cash and illegal drugs in their homes and are
less likely to report robberies to the police. For
participating in two such home invasions, Taylor was
convicted of two counts of Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of
§1951(a), and one count of using a firearm in
furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of
first attempted drug robbery for which Taylor was convicted
occurred in August 2009. Id., at 220. Taylor and
others targeted the home of Josh Whorley, having obtained
information that Whorley dealt "exotic and high
grade" marijuana. Ibid. "The robbers
expected to find both drugs and money" in Whorley's
home. Ibid. Taylor and the others broke into the
home, searched it, and assaulted Whorley and his girlfriend.
They demanded to be told the location of money and drugs but,
not locating any, left with only jewelry, $40, two cell
phones, and a marijuana cigarette. Ibid.
second attempted drug robbery occurred two months later in
October 2009 at the home of William Lynch. Ibid. A
source informed the leader of the gang that, on a prior
occasion, the source had robbed Lynch of 20 pounds of
marijuana in front of Lynch's home. The gang also
received information that Lynch continued to deal drugs.
Taylor and others broke into Lynch's home, held his wife
and young children at gunpoint, assaulted his wife, and
demanded to know the location of his drugs and money. Again
largely unsuccessful, the robbers made off with only a cell
phone. Id., at 221.
participation in these two home invasions, Taylor was
indicted under the Hobbs Act on two counts of affecting
commerce or attempting to do so through robbery. App.
11a-13a. His first trial resulted in a hung jury. On retrial,
at the urging of the Government, the District Court precluded
Taylor from introducing evidence that the drug dealers he
targeted might be dealing in only locally grown marijuana.
Id., at 60a; see 754 F.3d, at 221. During the second
trial, Taylor twice moved for a judgment of acquittal on the
ground that the prosecution had failed to meet its burden on
the commerce element, Tr. 445-447, 532-533; see 754 F.3d, at
221, but the District Court denied those motions, holding
that the proof that Taylor attempted to rob drug dealers was
sufficient as a matter of law to satisfy that element. Tr.
446, 532-533. The jury found Taylor guilty on both of the
Hobbs Act counts and one of the firearms counts. App.
appeal, Taylor challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to
prove the commerce element of the Hobbs Act, but the Fourth
Circuit affirmed. "Because drug dealing in the aggregate
necessarily affects interstate commerce, " the court
reasoned, "the government was simply required to prove
that Taylor depleted or attempted to deplete the assets of
such an operation." 754 F.3d, at 224.
granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits
regarding the demands of the Hobbs Act's commerce element
in cases involving the theft of drugs and drug proceeds from
drug dealers. 576 U.S. ___(2015).
Hobbs Act provides in ...