On New Year’s Eve, a 25-year-old man apparently walked into a Quiznos sandwich shop and robbed the store of $310 dollars. For that, he was charged with federal crimes, including possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and interference with commerce by robbery. For the firearm charge alone he could be sentenced to life in prison; for the robbery charge he will face a minimum of ten years and a maximum of 20 years. What really is at question, however, is why the man was charged under federal law.
Federal prosecutors used a law from 1946 to charge the 25-year-old. The Hobbs Act allowed for federal criminal charges for individuals suspected of armed robbery in businesses with a connection to interstate commerce. Though this answers how federal prosecutors were able to charge him under federal law, but it doesn’t explain why a federal prosecution was chosen over state criminal charges.
It seems that federal convictions do not include parole, meaning that anyone who is convicted of a federal crime will have to spend nearly his or her entire sentence in prison, even if it is clear that he or she will be of no threat to society. Federal criminal charges also come with stricter penalties that leave people locked up longer.
It may make sense to select criminal charges that will leave a violent or extremely dangerous suspect in prison for the rest of his life, but this 25-year-old doesn’t quite fit the profile. Yes, he had a sawed-off shotgun when he entered the store, but he never injured anyone. At most, he stole $464, hardly a substantial sum of money. Finally, there wasn’t even a long manhunt that exhausted considerable resources to find the man. He was arrested later that evening.
Unfortunately, this man will be spending a disproportionate amount of time behind bars what actually happened.
Source: Roseville Patch, “Man Pleads Guilty to Roseville Quiznos Robbery,” Scott Carlson, July 26, 2012