In a huge victory for proponents of civil asset forfeiture reform, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act of 1984 does not give authorities the right to seize property from co-conspirators who did not profit from a crime.
“Congress did not authorize the government to confiscate substitute property from other defendants or co-conspirators,” Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote in the decision for Honeycutt v. United States, according to the Associated Press.
Supreme Court blog Oyez reported the case involved Terry Honeycutt, a salaried employee at the Brainerd Army Store in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which was owned by his brother. He noticed that a water purification device was being purchased by a number of “edgy looking” people, so he contacted the police about it. The police informed him that the product was often used in the manufacture of methamphetamine and that he didn’t need to sell it if he felt uncomfortable.
Advertisement - story continues below
The store was later raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency and authorities sought a judgment of over $260,000 against both of the Honeycutt brothers, even though Terry had not directly profited from any illegal sales.
In her ruling, however, Sotomayor wrote that the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act “authorized the government to confiscate assets only from the defendant who initially acquired the property and who bears responsibility for its dissipation.”
That’s huge news for supporters of civil asset forfeiture reform… [CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE]