Taylor v. United States, 579 U.S. ___ (2016)

Issues: ,



NOTE:?Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.?S. 321 .



certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

No. 14?6166.?Argued February 23, 2016?Decided June 20, 2016


Petitioner Taylor was indicted under the Hobbs Act on two counts of affecting commerce or attempting to do so through robbery for his participation in two home invasions targeting marijuana dealers. In both cases, Taylor and other gang members broke into the homes, confronted the residents, demanded the location of drugs and money, found neither, and left relatively empty handed.

Taylor?s trial resulted in a hung jury. At his retrial, the Government urged the trial court to preclude Taylor from offering evidence that the drug dealers he targeted dealt only in locally-grown marijuana. The trial court excluded that evidence and Taylor was convicted on both counts. The Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that, given the aggregate effect of drug dealing on interstate commerce, the Government needed only to prove that Taylor robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds to satisfy the commerce element.


1.?The prosecution in a Hobbs Act robbery case satisfies the Act?s commerce element if it shows that the defendant robbed or attempted to rob a drug dealer of drugs or drug proceeds. Pp.?4?9.

(a)?The language of the Hobbs Act is unmistakably broad and reaches any obstruction, delay, or other effect on commerce, 18 U.?S.?C. ?1951(a), ?over which the United States has jurisdiction,? ?1951(b)(3). See United States v. Culbert, 435 U.?S. 371 . Pp.?4?5.

(b)?Under its commerce power, this Court has held, Congress may regulate, among other things, activities that have a substantial aggregate effect on interstate commerce, see Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.?S. 111 . This includes ?purely local activities that are part of an economic ?class of activities? that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce,? Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.?S. 1 , so long as those activities are economic in nature. See United States v. Morrison, 529 U.?S. 598 . One such ?class of activities? is the production, possession, and distribution of controlled substances. 545 U.?S., at 22. Grafting the holding in Raich onto the Hobbs Act?s commerce element, it follows that a robber who affects even the intrastate sale of marijuana affects commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction. Pp.?5?6.

(c)?In arguing that Raich should be distinguished because the Controlled Substances Act lacks the Hobbs Act?s additional commerce element, Taylor confuses the standard of proof with the meaning of the element that must be proved. The meaning of the Hobbs Act?s commerce element is a question of law, which, Raich establishes, includes purely intrastate drug production and sale. Applying, without expanding, Raich?s interpretation of the scope of Congress?s Commerce Clause power, if the Government proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a robber targeted a marijuana dealer?s drugs or illegal proceeds, the Government has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that commerce over which the United States has jurisdiction was affected. Pp.?6?9.

2.?Here, the Government met its burden by introducing evidence that Taylor?s gang intentionally targeted drug dealers to obtain drugs and drug proceeds. That evidence included information that the gang members targeted the victims because of their drug dealing activities, as well as explicit statements made during the course of the robberies that revealed their belief that drugs and money were present. Such proof is sufficient to meet the Hobbs Act?s commerce element. P. 9.

754 F.?3d 217, affirmed.

Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C.?J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion.