Double Jeopardy: Criminal and DMV
The Supreme Court reaffirmed this position four years later, emphasizing again that a sanction which is designed even in part to deter or punish will constitute punishment, regardless of whether it also has a remedial purpose. See Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, 113 S. Ct. 2801, 125 L. Ed. 2d 488 (1993). Under Austin, in order to determine whether a forfeiture constitutes 'punishment,' it is necessary to consider the entire scope of the statute rather than just the characteristics of the property to be forfeited. The Court provided a three-prong approach to determining whether a civil sanction constitutes punishment:
- "[T]he historical understanding of forfeiture as punishment" weighs heavily in favor of the conclusion that forfeiture continues to serve punitive purposes. [113 S. Ct. 2812.]
- Is there a discernible punitive purpose from a "clear focus of [the statute] on the culpability of the individual"? [Id.; emphasis added.]
- Had the legislative body passing the statute "understood those provisions as serving to deter and punish"? [Id.] Evidence of this is that the body "has chosen to tie forfeiture directly to the commission of' the criminal offense". [Id. at 2811; emphasis added.]
The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a key decision in this area. Department of Revenue of Montana v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767 --, 128 L. Ed. 2d 767, 114 S. Ct. 1937 (1994), involved a
marijuana tax imposed by the state of Montana. The Court held that it violated double jeopardy for a defendant to be tried criminally for selling marijuana and then to be charged civilly for a failure to pay the tax. The fact that one proceeding was civil and one was criminal did not matter, the Court said, so long as they both involved the same offense and both were intended as punishment.
Shortly after Kurth Ranch, the Ninth Circuit extended this reasoning to civil forfeiture. In United States v. $405,089.23 US. Currency, et al., 33 F.3d 1210 (9th Cir. 1994), the U.S. Court of Appeals was confronted with the question of whether the federal government violated the Double Jeopardy provisions of the Fifth Amendment by pursuing parallel proceedings against defendants for one course of conduct: (1) criminal prosecution for money laundering and conspiracy to manufacture drugs, and (2) civil forfeiture of property based on the same violations of law. The Court concluded:
"There can be little doubt that this case implicates the core Double jeopardy protection... The forfeiture complaint in this case was based on precisely the same conduct addressed in the claimant's criminal case, and it sought to forfeit title to the claimants' property on the basis of precisely the same violations of the same statutes. In short, this civil forfeiture action and the claimant's criminal prosecution addressed the identical violations of the identical laws; the only difference between the two proceedings was the remedy sought by the government."
Obviously, there is a clear parallel between the civil forfeiture of property in the discussed federal case and the civil "forfeiture" of a driver's license in the case herein. In both cases, the government is attempting to punish the individual in the two different proceedings for the exact same conduct (in the instant case, for driving with .08 percent blood alcohol; the only evidence offered at D.M.V. suspension hearings consists of the identical police reports relied on by the prosecution in filing the criminal charges).
After considerable litigation -- and contradictory rulings -- on the issue across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court finally dealt a near-fatal blow to the double jeopardy defense in administrative-criminal cases. In Hudson v. United States, -- 522 U.S. 93 -- (1997), defendants appealed convictions for using their positions as bank officers to secure fraudulent loans three years after paying civil fines to a federal government agency for the same conduct. They based their double jeopardy claim on United States v. Halper. Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for the majority, stated:
"We believe that Halper's deviation from longstanding double jeopardy principles was ill-considered. As subsequent cases have demonstrated, Halper's test for determining whether a particular sanction is
punitive, and thus subject to the strictures of the Double Jeopardy Clause, has proved unworkable."
Rehnquist then approved the traditional approach of considering (1) the expressed intent of the legislature, and (2) whether there is clear proof that a civil sanction is so punitive as to be criminal in nature.
The United States Supreme Court has refused to accept an ALR-DUI double jeopardy case for reasons not given. Jones v. Maryland, No. 95-1131, cert. denied (March 18, 1996).
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