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Robberies of illegal drugs could lead to unexpected consequences

When people in Pennsylvania are accused of robbery, they typically believe that the worst-case scenario is that they could be convicted of crimes specific to theft. However, there are certain factors of which those who are charged with this type of crime need to be aware. A recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States mandates that additional charges could be made against those who allegedly rob those who deal in illegal drugs.

The Hobbs Act, originally enacted in 1946, allows federal charges to be levied against someone who intends to interrupt commerce or a commodity of commerce by ways of robbery or extortion. One other significant aspect to this law is that the interruption to commerce needs to be considered interstate rather than intrastate in order for the federal statue to apply. A recent case that was brought before the Supreme Court could impact alleged robbery suspects who may be involved in thefts of illegal drugs.

After many appeals that eventually reached the Supreme Court, the highest Court determined that drug dealing does always impact interstate commerce, and robberies against drug dealers can be subject to Hobbs Act federal charges. The case centered around a defendant who was charged with two robberies that targeted perceived marijuana dealers in the Virginia area. The defendant was tried twice.

The first jury was hung primarily because of the argument that the stolen marijuana was grown and only intended to be distributed within the state of Virginia, thus removing the “interstate” aspect that was required for a conviction for Hobbs Act crimes. He was then convicted, and his conviction was ultimately pushed through several courts to ultimately be heard by the Supreme Court. This resulted in a seven-to-one decision in favor of the prosecution.

Though this is a complex issue, many who are charged with crimes relating to illegal drugs may face similar difficult legal problems. Most facing these challenges in Pennsylvania seek the counsel of an attorney who is well-versed in federal drug laws and experienced in criminal defense. By consulting with a lawyer, they can also ensure that they are fully equipped to make decisions about their cases that will potentially impact the rest of their lives.

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