Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US High Court Curbs Scope of Civil Forfeiture

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

US High Court Curbs Scope of Civil Forfeiture

Article excerpt

WHEN Richard Lyle Austin was caught selling cocaine from his auto-body shop near Sioux Falls, S.D., the state moved to seize both his shop and his mobile home, where drugs were found.

This was not one of the more dramatic civil forfeitures in the war on drugs, such as the brief seizure of a $2.5 million yacht in 1988 because less than one-tenth of a gram of marijuana was found in a crew member's pocket.

But the Supreme Court June 28 used the Austin case to make a landmark decision trimming the government's power to seize property. It ruled for the first time that seizing property is a form of punishment. Therefore, under the constitutional ban on excessive fines, the seizures can be disproportionate to the crime.

In a unanimous decision, the justices remanded Mr. Austin's case back to lower courts to determine whether losing his business and home, worth a total of $38,000, is excessive punishment for his crime.

The court took similar action in a second case on June 28. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.