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Intention Not Sufficient Grounds for Forfeiture, Court Rules


November 1994

A defendant's statement to an informant that a large amount of cash would be used to purchase marijuana is not grounds for that money to be forfeited, ruled the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky on Oct. 6 (U.S. v. $30,354 in U.S. Currency, DC WKY, No. C93-0180-BG, Oct. 6, 1994; 56 CrL 1086, Oct. 26, 1994; BNA Criminal Practice Manual, Nov. 9, 1994, p. 550).

The court held that 21 USC 881(a)(6), the civil forfeiture statute, requires that the government must prove that the property owner violated the Controlled Substances Act before a forfeiture can take place. The statute allows for money furnished or "intended to be furnished" in exchange for controlled substances "in violation of [the Controlled Substances Act]" to be subject to forfeiture. Such a violation did not take place in this case.

The case involved the investigation of Albert Head for drug activity. The government claimed that Head had stored marijuana and $120,000 in cash in a garage that burned down. Head allegedly told an agent that he had planned to use the cash to purchase marijuana. The government moved for a civil forfeiture of some $30,000 that survived the fire.

The court reasoned that forfeiture of the cash would have constituted punishment requiring proof of the commission of a crime. Since Head's statements to the agent are not enough evidence to prove a crime, the statements were an insufficient basis for the forfeiture.