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Criminal Law Litigation United States Supreme Court White Collar Crime

Challenging Disproportionate Forfeitures

Part One of a Two-Part Article

In Honeycutt v. United States, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that a federal criminal forfeiture statute permits joint and several liability for criminal asset forfeiture judgments, thereby protecting defendants who were only marginally culpable for a larger offense.

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In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has demonstrated a renewed willingness to police the boundaries of the law of asset forfeiture in order to make sure that defendants are treated fairly. In Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), the Supreme Court rejected the argument that a federal criminal forfeiture statute permits joint and several liability for criminal asset forfeiture judgments, thereby protecting defendants who were only marginally culpable for a larger offense. One year prior, in Luis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1083 (2016), the Supreme Court held that pretrial restraint of legitimate, untainted assets violated the Sixth Amendment, when the government sought to secure the untainted property as substitute assets for eventual forfeiture or restitution. Last year, Justice Clarence Thomas even expressed an interest in the Court taking up the question of whether due process requires the government to prove its entitlement to civil forfeiture by clear and convincing evidence. Leonard v. Texas, 137 S. Ct. 847 (2017) (Thomas, J., concurring).

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