Criminal Defense against Hobbs Act Robbery

January 9, 2023

Hobbs Act Robbery Criminal Defense Case


2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 34474 *; 2022 WL 17660604

Case No. 19-11048 (filed December 14, 2022)

In our case of the week, Carl Samson appealed from the district court’s dismissal of his authorize successive motion to vacate, correct, or set aside his sentence filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. However, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the judgment of the Eleventh Circuit, and remanded for the Circuit Court to reconsider given United States, 142 S. Ct. 2858 (2022).

Criminal Defense Elements of the Hobbs Act Robbery

Criminal defense of a conviction under the Hobbs Act requires the following to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt:
  1. The defendant knowingly or willfully committed, or attempted or conspired to commit robbery or extortion, and,
  2. The defendant’s conduct affected interstate commerce.

See United States v. Powell, 693 F. 3d 398 (3d Cir. 2012).

In this criminal defense case, counsel for Samson and the government agreed to file a joint motion for summary reversal, submitting that Samson’s attempted c robbery conviction no longer qualifies as a “crime of violence” to sustain an 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) conviction.

The Eleventh Circuit was left with little choice, except to grant the parties’ joint motion. See Groendyke Transp., Inc. v. Davis, 406 F.2d 1158, 1162 (5th Cir. 1969) (summary disposition is proper where “the position of . . . the parties is clearly right as a matter of law so that there can be no substantial question as to the outcome of the case”).

Leaning on a Residual Clause

The favorable outcome for Samson, who put his faith in a criminal defense lawyer to fight for justice, was inescapable, given the changing legal landscape.

The Eleventh Circuit vacated the conviction invalidated by the binding Supreme Court decisions along with the consecutive 120-month prison sentence imposed. The case was remanded to the district court to enter a new judgment. Following its “ordinary practice,” the Eleventh Circuit vacated Samson’s sentence. It was remanded for resentencing on the two remaining counts of conviction. 

See United States v. Fowler, 749 F.3d 1010, 1017 (11th Cir. 2014) (when a conviction is set aside, it is presumed that “sentences on each count of a multi-count indictment are part of a package that may…be revisited to ensure that the overall sentence on the surviving counts is consistent with the district court’s intentions, the guidelines, and the § 3553(a) factors”); see also id.  (“[S]entences that include a mandatory consecutive term of imprisonment … are particularly well suited to being treated as a package because they are inherently interdependent.”) (quotation marks and alteration omitted).

Carl Samson had the benefit of the effective assistance of a criminal defense lawyer up-to-date on recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. Qualified criminal defense lawyers have the know-how to fight judicial decisions deemed to be wrong-minded “all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” and, sometimes, the legal landscape changes.

In United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019), the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the so-called “residual clause” found in 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutionally vague, and, in Taylor, the Supreme Court decided that attempted Hobbs Act robbery is not a qualified “crime of violence” under § 924(c)(3)(A)’s elements clause. See Davis, 139 S. Ct. at 2336; Taylor, 142 S. Ct. at 2019-2021.


[1] See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(3) (defining “crime of violence” as a felony offense that “(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or (B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”)

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