Note: This is the second part of an article that was first published in the ABA Criminal Justice magazine.
By Sara Kropf
In Part I of this article, we analyzed the difference between blackmail and extortion and examined the various federal statutes that govern those offenses. In this second part, we’ll look at the related Hobbs Act and Travel Act, as well as the sentencing guidelines for these federal statutes.
The Hobbs Act and the Travel Act
There are two other statutes that can be used to charge an individual with extortionate conduct, the Hobbs Act and the Travel Act.
The Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, prohibits interference with commerce by threats or violence. It provides for a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. The key section is the following:
(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
The Hobbs Act defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”
The Justice Manual (formerly the U.S. Attorney’s Manual) sets forth four questions that “must be answered affirmatively” to bring a Hobbs Act charge: