Hobbs Act

We have successfully represented private individuals and politicians charged with Hobbs Act violations, including some of the most significant trials in Boston.

The Hobbs Act prohibits interference with interstate commerce through “robbery or extortion.” The “extortion” prong of the statute applies in two very different ways. There is the “wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear” prong, and the “under color of official right” prong, which is a distinct form of extortion. United States v. Brissette, 919 F.3d 670, 672 (1st Cir. 2019). In the first prong, the Hobbs Act defines “extortion” as taking property from another where his “consent” has been wrongfully induced through either actual or threatened force, violence or fear. This first part of the definition is applied to traditional ideas of “extortion,” where a person’s property is taken through threats or acts of violence.

In the second prong, the statute defines “extortion” as taking of property where a person’s “consent” has been wrongfully induced “under color of official right.”

In the second context, the government has historically prosecuted politicians, law enforcement officers, and even low-level political aides who are accused of improperly using their position (their “official right”) to extort property from another.

The government uses this statute as a tool to prosecute a diverse range of conduct, from armed robberies of banks or other financial institutions to politicians who extract money from constituents in return for the performance of official acts. It has become a particularly important prosecutorial tool for the government given the Supreme Court’s narrowing of the “honest services” fraud statute. The government has pursued an ever-increasing aggressive definition of the Hobbs Act, charging politicians and their aides even where the political aide did not personally obtain any property in return for the alleged “extortion,” and union members engaged in what has traditionally been considered lawful picketing activities. There has been mixed success in this area for the government, as the First Circuit has held that a defendant does acquire property, within the meaning of the “obtaining” element, by directing its transfer to another of his choosing, irrespective of whether he receives a personal benefit as a result.

We have deep experience defending Hobbs Act prosecutions. We have successfully represented private individuals and politicians charged with Hobbs Act violations, including some of the most significant trials in Boston. Defenses to these prosecutions are often factually and legally complex, and it is therefore imperative that you obtain legal representation as early as possible if you or a family member is the subject of such an investigation or prosecution, such that your attorney can immediately begin his investigation. The goal of any such investigation is often twofold: acquire information essential to persuading the government that you have not committed any federal offense and, if necessary, begin to prepare a defense to a federal prosecution in the event the government ultimately decides to seek an indictment.

We have the resources, experience and skills to effectively defend Hobbs Act investigations or prosecutions, in Boston and beyond. If you or a family member is the subject of a Hobbs Act investigation or prosecution, we invite you to contact us to learn more about the depth of our experience, skills and knowledge in this area.

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