Florida District Court Holds Robbery Jury Instructions too Vague, Vacates 924(c) convictions
United States v. Louis, No. 21-CR-20252 (S.D. Fla.)
A district court in the Southern District of Florida granted a Louis’ motion to dismiss six 18 U.S.C. 924(c) counts based on the argument that the Eleventh Circuit’s Pattern Jury Instructions on Hobbs Act robbery is overbroad.
Eleventh Circuit Jury Instruction 70.3 instructs the jury that a defendant may be found guilty of Hobbs Act robbery by “‘fear’ mean[ing] a state of anxious concern, alarm, or anticipation of harm. In includes the fear of financial loss as well as fear of physical force.”
18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3) defines a crime of violence an offense that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.” The court found that by allowing the jury to convict Louis for “fear of financial loss as well as fear of physical violence” in addition to the “use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force” made the jury instruction categorically overbroad for 924(c) purposes.
Moreover, the court noted that the parties had notice of the infirmity regarding the Eleventh Circuit’s Pattern Jury Instruction, but still approved the instruction as written. However, prior to Louis’ sentencing, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Taylor, which requires the use of the categorical approach when interpreting Hobbs Act robbery.
Given the categorically overbroad nature of the Hobbs Act robbery charges relative to 924(c)(3), the district court found it proper to arrest judgment on the six 924(c) convictions and dismiss those counts for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.