United States v. Marlon Eason, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

The Federal Docket

Sentencing Guidelines/Career Offender – Under U.S.S.G.  § 4B1.2(a), a conviction for Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence.”

The Court considered whether the defendants’ prior convictions for Hobbs Act robbery constituted “crimes of violences” for sentencing purposes under the Guidelines.

Applying the categorical approach, the Court first held that Hobbs Act robbery does not constitute a “crime of violence” under the elements clause of the definition of “crime of violence,” as it includes an element based on threats or harm to property, not just a person.

The plain language of the statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), defines robbery as “the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, by means of actual or threatened force, or violence, or fear of injury, immediate or future, to his person or property, or property in his custody or possession, or the person or property of a relative or member of his family or of anyone in his company at the time of the taking or obtaining.” Because the statute allows for a conviction based on threats to property, and not just a person, it was too broad to qualify as a “crime of violence.”

Neither does Hobbs Act robbery qualify as an enumerated crime of violence as a robbery or as extortion, the Court held, as a Hobbs Act robbery is broader than the generic offense of robbery since it can be committed with mere threats to property. Similarly, extortion does not include fear or threats of harm to property.

Since the defendants were improperly sentenced as career offenders based on their prior Hobbs Act robbery convictions, the Court vacated their sentences.

Appeal from the Southern District of Florida

Opinion by J. Pryor, joined by Jordan and Walker (by designation from the 2d Cir.)

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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