Academic journal article American Journal of Law & Medicine

Fraud & Abuse: Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment-United States V. Bajakajian

Academic journal article American Journal of Law & Medicine

Fraud & Abuse: Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment-United States V. Bajakajian

Article excerpt

Fraud & Abuse: Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment-United States v. Bajakajian -The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a civil monetary penalty violated the 8th Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause. This decision may have important implications in the field of health care fraud. On June 9, 1994, customs inspectors found respondent Hosep Bajakajian attempting to transport internationally an undeclared $357,144 in cash.2 The government charged Bajakajian with the failure to report and sought forfeiture of the entire amount pursuant to 31 U.S.C.

5316(a) (1998). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although the entire $357,144 was subject to forfeiture, doing so would violate the 8th Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause.3

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that the statute was violated and ordered forfeiture of $15,000, three years probation and a $5,000 fine. The district court found that while the entire amount was subject to forfeiture because it was involved in the offense, it held that forfeiture, in this case, was "grossly disproportionate to the offense in question." It further found that the money was unrelated to any other crime, that Bajakajian was transporting the money to repay a lawful debt, and that he failed to report the transfer because of cultural differences that made him distrustful of government.

In a 5-4 decision delivered by Justice Thomas, the Court held that "a punitive forfeiture violates the Excessive Fines Clause if it is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the defendant's offense."4 The Court found that the forfeiture involved in Bajakajian was subject to the limitations on "the government's power to extract payments . …

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