United States v. Taylor

Justia Summary

Following an unsuccessful robbery during which his accomplice shot a man, Taylor was charged under the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), and with committing a “crime of violence” under section 924(c). The Hobbs Act makes it a crime to commit, attempt to commit, or conspire to commit a robbery with an interstate component. Section 924(c) authorizes enhanced punishments for using a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence” as defined in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A) (elements clause) or 924(c)(3)(B) (residual clause). Taylor's sentence was based on his admission that he had committed both conspiracy to commit and attempted Hobbs Act robbery. In habeas proceedings, Taylor argued neither offense qualified as a “crime of violence” following the Supreme Court's holding that 924(c)(3)(B)’s residual clause was unconstitutionally vague. The Fourth Circuit vacated Taylor’s 924(c) conviction.

The Supreme Court affirmed. Attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” under 924(c)(3)(A). Under the “categorical approach” for determining whether a federal felony may serve as a predicate under the elements clause, the question is whether that felony “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force.” The relevant inquiry is not how any particular defendant may commit the crime but whether that felony always requires the government to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, as an element of its case, the use, attempted use, or threatened use of force. To secure a conviction for attempted Hobbs Act robbery, the government must prove that the defendant intended to complete the offense and that the defendant completed a “substantial step” toward that end; it need not prove that the defendant used, attempted to use, or even threatened to use force against another person or his property.