Recently in Forfeiture Category

Lance Rogers of BNA Criminal Law Reporter has this article on the U.S. Supreme Court's March 30 decision in Luis v. United States regarding pretrial freezing of assets of the defendant not directly related to the crime but forfeitable in substitution for tainted but expended assets.  The court held that such assets cannot be frozen when the defendant needs them to pay her lawyer.  See also my previous post.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided Luis v. United States, No. 14-419.  Justice Breyer's plurality opinion begins:

A federal statute provides that a court may freeze before trial certain assets belonging to a criminal defendant accused of violations of federal health care or banking laws. See 18 U. S. C. §1345. Those assets include: (1) property "obtained as a result of " the crime, (2) property "traceable" to the crime, and (3) other "property of equivalent value." §1345(a)(2). In this case, the Government has obtained a court order that freezes assets belonging to the third category of property, namely, property that is untainted by the crime, and that belongs fully to the defendant. That order, the defendant says, prevents her from paying her lawyer. She claims that insofar as it does so, it violates her Sixth Amendment "right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for [her] defence." We agree.
Justice Thomas concurred in this result, making the decision 5-3.
Jacob Gershman reports in the WSJ:

Efforts to limit seizures of money, homes and other property from people who may never be convicted of a crime are stalling out amid a wave of pressure from prosecutors and police.

Critics have taken aim at the confiscatory powers over concerns that authorities have too much latitude and often too strong a financial incentive when deciding whether to seize property suspected of being tied to criminal activity.

But after New Mexico passed a law this spring hailed by civil-liberties groups as a breakthrough in their effort to rein in states' forfeiture programs, prosecutor and police associations stepped up their own lobbying campaign, warning legislators that passing such laws would deprive them of a potent crime-fighting tool and rip a hole in law-enforcement budgets.

Their effort, at least at the state level, appears to be working. At least a dozen states considered bills restricting or even abolishing forfeiture that isn't accompanied by a conviction or gives law enforcement less control over forfeited proceeds. But most measures failed to pass.

Monthly Archives