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Supreme Court Explains the Definition of Crimes of Violence

ArborYpsi Law

Pursuant to federal law, people convicted of violent crimes face greater penalties if they use firearms during the commission of the offense. Although federal law provides a definition for violent crimes, it is not always clear what offenses fall under the definition, and the issue often arises in federal courts. Recently, the United States Supreme Court provided some clarity on the matter by expressly holding that an attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not constitute a crime of violence. If you are charged with a violent offense, it is wise to talk to a Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant and another individual attempted to rob a drug dealer. The drug dealer was shot during the incident. The government then charged the defendant with several crimes, including conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and attempted Hobbs Act robbery. Additionally, the defendant’s indictment asserted that both offenses were predicate crimes of violence. The defendant pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery and the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

It is alleged that the government agreed to dismiss the rest of the charges against the defendant. The court convicted the defendant of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. He then sought habeas review, arguing that the predicate offenses did not constitute crimes of violence and, therefore, his conviction should be vacated. The appellate court granted the appeal, and the government sought certiorari review.

The Definition of Crimes of Violence

On appeal, the Court answered the distinct question of whether attempted Hobbs Act robbery falls under the definition of a crime of violence under federal law. The Court ultimately ruled that it did not and affirmed the intermediate court’s ruling. In its opinion, the Court noted that the government was required to demonstrate that the defendant intended to take another party’s property through threat or force and took a substantial step in the direction of meeting that goal in order to obtain a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery.

As the Court explained, though, the elements of attempted Hobbs Act robbery do not categorically involve the actual, attempted, or threatened use of physical force. Therefore, Hobbs Act robbery is not a crime of violence under federal law, as a predicate for a felony conviction and imposing enhanced sentencing for using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Talk to a Capable Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney About Your Charges

People convicted of violent crimes face significant penalties, especially if the offense involved the use of firearms. If you are charged with a violent crime, it is essential to set forth a compelling defense, and you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible to determine your options. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a capable Michigan criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and help you to seek a good outcome. You can reach Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a meeting.

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