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2402. Hobbs Act -- Generally

The Hobbs Act prohibits actual or attempted robbery or extortion affecting interstate or foreign commerce "in any way or degree." Section 1951 also proscribes conspiracy to commit robbery or extortion without reference to the conspiracy statute at 18 U.S.C. § 371. The statutory prohibition of "physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section" is confined to violence for the purpose of committing robbery or extortion. United States v. Franks, 511 F.2d 25, 31 (6th Cir. 1975) (rejecting the view that the statute proscribes all physical violence obstructing, delaying, or affecting commerce as contrasted with violence designed to culminate in robbery or extortion).

The extortion offense reaches both the obtaining of property "under color of official right" by public officials and the obtaining of property by private actors with the victim's "consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear," including fear of economic harm. See this Manual at 2405 and Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255, 265, 112 S.Ct. 1181, 1188 (1992) (only a private individual's extortion of property by the wrongful use of force, violence, or fear requires that the victim's consent be induced by these means; extortion of property under color of official right does not require that a public official take steps to induce the extortionate payment).

Although the Hobbs Act was enacted in 1946 to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, the extortion statute is frequently used in connection with cases involving public corruption, commercial disputes, and corruption directed at members of labor unions. Proof of "racketeering" as an element of Hobbs Act offenses is not required. United States v. Culbert, 435 U.S. 371, 98 S.Ct. 1112 (1978). However, a violation of the Hobbs Act may be part of a "pattern of racketeering activity" for purposes of prosecution under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute (18 U.S.C. §  1961, et seq.).

[cited in USAM 9-131.010]

Updated June 11, 2015