Chickens, Guns, and Commerce
That's Small-l Libertarianism

More "Interstate Commerce" Nonsense

Today Judge Posner, on behalf of a unanimous three-judge panel, wrote that attempting to coerce someone into withdrawing money from an ATM machine is a Hobbs Act violation.

No one was able to identify the robber, but he had left a fingerprint on the car window and eventually this was matched with a fingerprint of the defendant’s that was on file. Had the crime not been interrupted, and Cahill been forced to withdraw money from an ATM, she would have done so by inserting her card into the ATM, causing an electronic signal to be sent to Ohio, where the transaction would have been processed and a signal dispatched back to the ATM to enable her to withdraw cash from the machine.

The Hobbs Act criminalizes robbery and extortion that “in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce.” 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). The defendant argues that since he never got near the ATM, he could not have violated the Act. That is wrong. The Hobbs Act expressly embraces attempts to obstruct commerce by robbery or extortion, id., as well as the completed obstruction. So the question is merely whether commerce would have been obstructed had the attempt succeeded. United States v. Bailey, 227 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2000); United States v. Jamison, 299 F.3d 114, 117-20 (2d Cir. 2002). It would have been. Had Cahill been forced to withdraw money from an ATM, the withdrawal would have been an interstate transaction, a transaction in commerce.

United States v. McCarter, No. 04-1684, Slip op. at 2-3 (7th Cir. Apr. 27, 2005) (Posner, J.).  As I noted in this post - Federal Powers and Cell Phones - in the Seventh Circuit, using a cellular telephone provides federal jurisdiction.