__ U.S. __ (2017), 16-122, Leonard v. Texas

Docket Nº:16-122
Citation:__ U.S. __, 137 S.Ct. 847, 197 L.Ed.2d 474, 85 U.S.L.W. 3414, 85 U.S.L.W. 3416, 85 U.S.L.W. 3417
Party Name:LISA OLIVIA LEONARD v. TEXAS
Judge Panel:Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan.
Case Date:March 06, 2017
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 847

137 S.Ct. 847 (2017)

197 L.Ed.2d 474, 85 U.S.L.W. 3416

LISA OLIVIA LEONARD

v.

TEXAS

No. 16-122

United States Supreme Court

March 6, 2017

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS OF TEXAS, NINTH DISTRICT

Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan.

OPINION

Petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District denied.

CONCUR

Petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District denied.

Statement of Justice Thomas respecting the denial of certiorari.

This petition asks an important question: whether modern civil-forfeiture statutes can be squared with the Due Process Clause and our Nation's history.

[197 L.Ed.2d 475] I

Early in the morning on April 1, 2013, a police officer stopped James Leonard for a traffic infraction along a known drug corridor. During a search of the vehicle, the officer found a safe in the trunk. Leonard and his passenger, Nicosa Kane, gave conflicting stories about the contents of the safe, with Leonard at one point indicating that it belonged to his mother, who is the petitioner here. The officer obtained a search warrant and discovered that the safe contained $201,100 and a bill of sale for a Pennsylvania home.

The State initiated civil forfeiture proceedings against the $201,100 on the ground that it was substantially connected to criminal activity, namely, narcotics sales. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 59.01 (Vernon Cum. Supp. 2016). The trial court issued a forfeiture order, and petitioner appealed. Citing the suspicious circumstances of the stop and the contradictory stories provided by Leonard and Kane, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the government had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the money was either the proceeds of a drug sale or intended to be used in such a sale. It also affirmed the trial court's rejection of petitioner's innocent-owner defense. Petitioner had asserted that the money was not related to a drug sale at all, but was instead from a home she had recently sold in Pennsylvania. The court deemed this testimony insufficient to establish that she was in fact an innocent owner.

Petitioner now challenges the constitutionality of the procedures used to adjudicate the seizure of her property. In particular, she argues that the Due Process Clause required the State to carry its burden by clear and convincing evidence rather than by a preponderance of the evidence.

II

Modern civil forfeiture statutes are plainly designed, at least in part, to punish the owner of property used for criminal purposes. See, e.g., Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, 618-619, 113 S.Ct. 2801, 125 L.Ed.2d 488 (1993). When a state wishes to punish one of its citizens, it ordinarily proceeds against the defendant personally (known as " in personam " ), and in many cases it must provide the defendant with full criminal procedural...

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