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Civil Forfeiture Concession Cannot Be Used to Stop Criminal Proceedings


February 1995

The U.S. District Court for the District of Northern Alabama ruled on Jan. 20, 1995 that a defendant cannot use a civil forfeiture concession as a "ploy" to avoid criminal charges through the double jeopardy prohibition (U.S. v. Smith, 56 CrL 1409, No. 94-AR-254-S, 1995WL27386, (DC N.Ala. 1995)).

Charlie Smith, the defendant, conceded to an earlier civil forfeiture action brought against him. He then filed to have the indictment for criminal charges dismissed as he had already been "punished" for the offense through the forfeiture.

The court refused to dismiss the indictment in spite of Austin v. U.S. (No. 92-6073, 113 S.Ct. 2801(1993)), which held that civil forfeiture is punishment when evaluating double jeopardy, and a recent case in Massachusetts in which a judge refused a government motion to stay in a civil forfeiture case in order to protect criminal proceedings against the defendant from dismissal on double jeopardy grounds (U.S. v. Parcel of Land located at 167 Woodland Road, Newton, Mass., No. 94-10851, 1994WL707129, (DC Mass 1994)).

The court relied, however, on U.S. v. One Single Family Residence located at 18755 North Bay Road, Miami, Fla., 13 F.3d 1493 (11th Cir. 1994), in finding that criminal and civil sanctions are part of "a single coordinated prosecution." That court ruled that "there is no problem [in this case] that the government acted abusively by seeking a second punishment because of dissatisfaction with the punishment levied in the first action."