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Pretrial freeze of “untainted” assets violates the Sixth Amendment

Somerville

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A ruling issued on Wednesday in the Supreme Court is a good illustration in regards to the complexity of law and how it is to be interpreted by legal minds.

Complexity and length of the article means I can only post a little bit. I do recommend that those interested take the time to click thru and read
Pretrial freeze of “untainted” assets violates the Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice

Four years ago, Sila Luis was indicted on charges of Medicare fraud. The government alleged that she had obtained as much as $45 million illegally but had spent almost all of it, leaving her with approximately $2 million in assets. Hoping to ensure that Luis’s remaining assets would be available to pay fines and restitution if she were convicted, the government went to court. Relying on a federal statute that allows courts to freeze property equivalent in value to the proceeds of health-care crimes like those with which Luis has been charged, the government asked a federal trial court to issue a pretrial order to freeze all of Luis’s assets, including the “untainted” ones – that is, money not connected to her alleged crimes
(. . .)
Justice Stephen Breyer had the eight-member Court’s main opinion, which drew the support of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. For Breyer, it comes down to a balancing test. On the one hand, the Sixth Amendment right to hire the lawyer of your choice, while not unlimited, is a fundamental one, which would be undermined by allowing courts to freeze a defendant’s “untainted” assets. On the other hand, although the government’s interest in ensuring that a defendant’s assets are available to pay fines or restitution is certainly important, Breyer concludes, that interest is outweighed by the defendant’s constitutional right to his counsel of choice – particularly when the defendant may still have “tainted” assets – that is, assets that are the fruits of his crimes. Moreover, Breyer added, allowing the government to freeze “untainted” assets in a case like Luis’s “would have no obvious stopping place,” because Congress could enact new laws to allow similar asset freezes in cases involving other kinds of crimes.

Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the Breyer plurality . . .

Justice Anthony Kennedy dissented, in an opinion joined by Justice Samuel Alito. . .

Justice Elena Kagan also dissented . . .

Luis’s case now goes back to the lower courts, where she will presumably be allowed to use her “untainted” funds to pay (within reason) her attorney’s fees.

Luis v. United States
 

Captain Adverse

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A ruling issued on Wednesday in the Supreme Court is a good illustration in regards to the complexity of law and how it is to be interpreted by legal minds.

Complexity and length of the article means I can only post a little bit. I do recommend that those interested take the time to click thru and read


Luis v. United States

If there are any "untainted assets" they should be retained for use by the defendant in support of their own defense.

Unless and until someone is adjudged guilty, their untainted assets should not be subject to restraints.
 
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SocialD

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If there are any "untainted assets" they should be retained for use by the defendant in support of their own defense.

Unless and until someone is adjudged guilty, then it is right and proper for them to retain control over their untainted assets.

That one is tough. on one hand I agree , then on the other hand I think give them public defender and freeze the assets.
 

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That one is tough. on one hand I agree , then on the other hand I think give them public defender and freeze the assets.

Why? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Seizing untainted assets is an unreasonable restraint, and prevents a person from obtaining the best counsel available. It also puts an unreasonable burden on their everyday lives. No money = no food on the table, rent for shelter, bills paid, house repossessed. How is that justice?
 

SocialD

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Why? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Seizing untainted assets is an unreasonable restraint, and prevents a person from obtaining the best counsel available. It also puts an unreasonable burden on their everyday lives. No money = no food on the table, rent for shelter, bills paid, house repossessed. How is that justice?

I agree which is why I'm torn. screwing people out of millions of dollars makes one angry. but... we have to prove it first so yea.
 

Bucky

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Why? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Seizing untainted assets is an unreasonable restraint, and prevents a person from obtaining the best counsel available. It also puts an unreasonable burden on their everyday lives. No money = no food on the table, rent for shelter, bills paid, house repossessed. How is that justice?

From Justice Kennedy's dissent:

"Assume a thief steals $1 million and then wins another $1 million in a lottery. After putting the sums in separate accounts, he or she spends $1 million. If the thief spends his or her lottery winnings, the Government can restrain the stolen funds in their entirety. The thief has no right to use those funds to pay for an attorney. Yet if the thief heeds today’s decision, he or she will spend the stolen money first; for if the thief is apprehended, the $1 million won in the lottery can be used for an attorney. This result is not required by the Constitution."

“The true winners today are sophisticated criminals who know how to make criminal proceeds look untainted. They do so every day.”

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-419_nmip.pdf

Sadly this ruling favors rights for criminals. Smart criminals can disguise tainted funds as untainted funds. This decision is setting a horrible precedent and only makes it easier for criminals to get off.
 

Kobie

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From Justice Kennedy's dissent:

"Assume a thief steals $1 million and then wins another $1 million in a lottery. After putting the sums in separate accounts, he or she spends $1 million. If the thief spends his or her lottery winnings, the Government can restrain the stolen funds in their entirety. The thief has no right to use those funds to pay for an attorney. Yet if the thief heeds today’s decision, he or she will spend the stolen money first; for if the thief is apprehended, the $1 million won in the lottery can be used for an attorney. This result is not required by the Constitution."

“The true winners today are sophisticated criminals who know how to make criminal proceeds look untainted. They do so every day.”

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-419_nmip.pdf

Sadly this ruling favors rights for criminals. Smart criminals can disguise tainted funds as untainted funds. This decision is setting a horrible precedent and only makes it easier for criminals to get off.

Favors rights for accused criminals.
 

Somerville

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From Justice Kennedy's dissent:

"Assume a thief steals $1 million and then wins another $1 million in a lottery. After putting the sums in separate accounts, he or she spends $1 million. If the thief spends his or her lottery winnings, the Government can restrain the stolen funds in their entirety. The thief has no right to use those funds to pay for an attorney. Yet if the thief heeds today’s decision, he or she will spend the stolen money first; for if the thief is apprehended, the $1 million won in the lottery can be used for an attorney. This result is not required by the Constitution."

“The true winners today are sophisticated criminals who know how to make criminal proceeds look untainted. They do so every day.”

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-419_nmip.pdf

Sadly this ruling favors rights for criminals. Smart criminals can disguise tainted funds as untainted funds. This decision is setting a horrible precedent and only makes it easier for criminals to get off.
The words I emphasised would seem to indicate that you actually believe at least in part, the justification for the Court's ruling. In other words, the public defender system as presently formulated is incapable of providing adequate defence for the accused in criminal cases.
 

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The words I emphasised would seem to indicate that you actually believe at least in part, the justification for the Court's ruling. In other words, the public defender system as presently formulated is incapable of providing adequate defence for the accused in criminal cases.

IMO it would be too difficult to distinguish between tainted funds and untainted funds. So what if someone steals $1 million dollars and uses that money on business investments and makes $10 million legally? Technically all that money is tainted.

The purpose of the sixth Amendment is not a right to counsel with tainted money. If the money is stolen, that money is technically not his/hers

If the government has a reasonable belief if you are going to try and hide your money before being forfeited, they should be able to freeze your assets.
 

Frank Apisa

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Incredibly interesting splitting of the decision!

Strange bedfellows!

Breyer, Roberts, Bader Ginsburg, Thomas, and Sotomayor on one side…

…Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan on the other.

Where does that come from?
 
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Somerville

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Incredibly interesting splitting of the decision!

Strange bedfellows!

Breyer, Roberts, Bader Ginsburg, Thomas, and Sotomayor on one side…

…Kennedy, Alito, and Kagan on the other.

Where does that come from?

Frank, it seems the ideologues have failed to notice this little peculiarity
 

Somerville

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IMO it would be too difficult to distinguish between tainted funds and untainted funds. So what if someone steals $1 million dollars and uses that money on business investments and makes $10 million legally? Technically all that money is tainted.

The purpose of the sixth Amendment is not a right to counsel with tainted money. If the money is stolen, that money is technically not his/hers

If the government has a reasonable belief if you are going to try and hide your money before being forfeited, they should be able to freeze your assets.

Why are you avoiding the point I made? It had nothing to do with whether or not an accused person was able to hide their money.

You apparently think/believe that a person who must rely upon the public defender system, as it exists, is more likely to be convicted than a person who can afford a private attorney. In other words - if you got the cash, you have a much greater chance of escaping judgement than those who are poor. Reality says that this is true in America - you got money, you ain't goin' to jail.
 

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From Justice Kennedy's dissent:

"Assume a thief steals $1 million and then wins another $1 million in a lottery. After putting the sums in separate accounts, he or she spends $1 million. If the thief spends his or her lottery winnings, the Government can restrain the stolen funds in their entirety. The thief has no right to use those funds to pay for an attorney. Yet if the thief heeds today’s decision, he or she will spend the stolen money first; for if the thief is apprehended, the $1 million won in the lottery can be used for an attorney. This result is not required by the Constitution."

“The true winners today are sophisticated criminals who know how to make criminal proceeds look untainted. They do so every day.”

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-419_nmip.pdf

Sadly this ruling favors rights for criminals. Smart criminals can disguise tainted funds as untainted funds. This decision is setting a horrible precedent and only makes it easier for criminals to get off.

I hold to the same principle concerning innocent until proven guilty.

This decision favors the presumption of innocence, and not creating undue hardships prior to a conviction.
 
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Bucky

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Why are you avoiding the point I made? It had nothing to do with whether or not an accused person was able to hide their money.

You apparently think/believe that a person who must rely upon the public defender system, as it exists, is more likely to be convicted than a person who can afford a private attorney. In other words - if you got the cash, you have a much greater chance of escaping judgement than those who are poor. Reality says that this is true in America - you got money, you ain't goin' to jail.

It wouldn't necessarily make a difference imo.

If you are at the point where you can barely afford an attorney, you probably aren't getting a Ted Wells anyway. Look at the amount they froze, $2 million.

Most of these highly sophisticated criminals have secret bank accounts or can just access through money through family, friends, associates, etc..
 

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That one is tough. on one hand I agree , then on the other hand I think give them public defender and freeze the assets.

They use civil forfeiture to raise funds for the department and they use asset freezes to try to cripple the defense. That's playing dirty, very dirty indeed.
 

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I'm not sure I agree with freezing any assets upon indictment.

I can see the utility in doing so, but I think such a measure should be exacted upon conviction, not indictment.

I think freezing any assets before a conviction is assuming guilt before it's determined by a court of law.

but hey, this is a government who can seize your assets for no reason at all... so i'm not really surprised.
 

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IMO it would be too difficult to distinguish between tainted funds and untainted funds. So what if someone steals $1 million dollars and uses that money on business investments and makes $10 million legally? Technically all that money is tainted.

The purpose of the sixth Amendment is not a right to counsel with tainted money. If the money is stolen, that money is technically not his/hers

If the government has a reasonable belief if you are going to try and hide your money before being forfeited, they should be able to freeze your assets.

I think that is part of the strange reasoning involved in "comingled funds". The government like to throw everything in the same pot so they can seize the whole pot.
 

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This type of ruling puts the handcuffs on our law enforcement instead of the criminals.

I am well aware of the concept of innocent until proven guilty however it seems some people in this thread believe until the verdict is reached we cannot do anything to stop a potential criminal taking from the innocent.
 

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This type of ruling puts the handcuffs on our law enforcement instead of the criminals.

I am well aware of the concept of innocent until proven guilty however it seems some people in this thread believe until the verdict is reached we cannot do anything to stop a potential criminal taking from the innocent.

FIRST, the legal system must prove the accused is "taking from the innocent"
 

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This type of ruling puts the handcuffs on our law enforcement instead of the criminals.

This ruling does absolutely nothing to stop law enforcement from arresting criminals. I don't think you read the OP.

This stops the prosecution from crippling the defense by seizing assets after the criminals have been arrested but before trial, so as to force those who could afford multiple private attorneys to take the one public defender. (Amusingly enough, it is those prosecutors who are the loudest voices of protest when states consider raising the rates paid to public defenders. Wonder why that is).


I am well aware of the concept of innocent until proven guilty however it seems some people in this thread believe until the verdict is reached we cannot do anything to stop a potential criminal taking from the innocent

This isn't a dystopian future society where we punish "potential criminals." (See Minority Report, short story by Philip K. Dick). You obviously have no clue what the concept of innocent until proven guilty means.

Then again, I've seen a number of your posts....so..... whatever.
 

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I wonder if beefing up conditional bond would be a good mechanism. There is some case law regarding awarding cash bond to the victims of whatever the crime is upon a guilty verdict.

Child support does it rather frequently but the issue of arrears in child support is pretty settled before there is any court proceedings.
 

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From Justice Kennedy's dissent:

"Assume a thief steals $1 million and then wins another $1 million in a lottery. After putting the sums in separate accounts, he or she spends $1 million. If the thief spends his or her lottery winnings, the Government can restrain the stolen funds in their entirety. The thief has no right to use those funds to pay for an attorney. Yet if the thief heeds today’s decision, he or she will spend the stolen money first; for if the thief is apprehended, the $1 million won in the lottery can be used for an attorney. This result is not required by the Constitution."

“The true winners today are sophisticated criminals who know how to make criminal proceeds look untainted. They do so every day.”

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-419_nmip.pdf

Sadly this ruling favors rights for criminals. Smart criminals can disguise tainted funds as untainted funds. This decision is setting a horrible precedent and only makes it easier for criminals to get off.

The problem with Justice Kennedy's dissent - or at least the part quoted here - is that it presumes guilt. That's not the way the system is supposed to work. He's not a "criminal" until convicted and frankly freezing assets so that the person can't hire counsel of choice, especially in a complex case, is a pretty good way to insure a guilty verdict.
 

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This type of ruling puts the handcuffs on our law enforcement instead of the criminals.

I am well aware of the concept of innocent until proven guilty however it seems some people in this thread believe until the verdict is reached we cannot do anything to stop a potential criminal taking from the innocent.

Correct. You cannot. Innocent until proven guilty is just that.
 

Mach

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Maybe the decision is important but $45M in medicare fraud? A single person? *jaw drops*
Wow, I'm in the wrong line of work.
 

Bucky

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This ruling does absolutely nothing to stop law enforcement from arresting criminals. I don't think you read the OP.

This stops the prosecution from crippling the defense by seizing assets after the criminals have been arrested but before trial, so as to force those who could afford multiple private attorneys to take the one public defender. (Amusingly enough, it is those prosecutors who are the loudest voices of protest when states consider raising the rates paid to public defenders. Wonder why that is).

It is obvious you have a liberal bias, however I would consider reading Elena Kagen's dissent. This decision gives a perverse advantage to those that decide to spend stolen money and keep any other money as a rainy day fund for hiring a lawyer.

I guess if I want to start a criminal organization I know what to do. Go to Bank of American and create a two accounts: 1) for tainted money which I would spend right away and 2) for untainted money which I could use to hire a rich lawyer.
 
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