“there is lots of outrage these days over the federal government forcing people to buy health insurance; why is there so little over the fact that the federal government can put me in prison if I steal a Snickers Bar at gunpoint from the local gas station?”

April 4th, 2012

I am outraged!

There is no federal statute criminalizing robberies that take place outside, or near, or on the threshold of, a federally insured bank. To be sure, there is a federal bank robbery act, but of course Pleau didn’t rob a bank. No, as I mentioned he allegedly committed a Hobbs Act robbery — a robbery that “affects commerce” — which has nothing to do with the fact that it was near a bank.

But that brings me to my second point which is that I doubt many people realize how broad the federal Hobbs Act is. Apparently, anyone who robs any commercial establishment violates the Act. Moreover, even if one forcibly steals the proceeds of a commercial establishment, one has likely violated the Act. There are cases upholding convictions under the Act where the defendant robbed a home, where among the stolen items were the proceeds from a commercial enterprise.