One Lot Emerald Cut Stones One Ring v. United States

Citation409 U.S. 232,34 L.Ed.2d 438,93 S.Ct. 489
Decision Date11 December 1972
Docket NumberNo. 72-376,72-376
PartiesONE LOT EMERALD CUT STONES and ONE RING v. UNITED STATES
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

PER CURIAM.

On June 5, 1969, Francisco Farkac Klementova entered the United States without declaring to United States Customs one lot of emerald cut stones and one ring. Klementova was indicted, tried, and acquitted of charges of violating 18 U.S.C. § 5451 by willfully and know- ingly, with intent to defraud the United States, smuggling the articles into the United States without submitting to the required customs procedures. Following the acquittal, the Government instituted a forfeiture action in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, under 18 U.S.C. § 545 and § 497 of the Tariff Act of 1930, 46 Stat. 728, 19 U.S.C. § 1497.2 Klementova intervened in the proceeding and argued that his acquittal of charges of violating 18 U.S.C. § 545 barred the forfeiture. The District Court held that the forfeiture was barred by collateral estoppel and the Fifth Amendment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed, 461 F.2d 1189, holding that a forfeiture action pursuant to 19 U.S.C. § 1497 was not barred by an acquittal of charges of violating 18 U.S.C. § 545. We grant certiorari, affirm, and thereby resolve a conflict among the circuits as to whether a forfeiture is barred in these circumstances.3

Collateral estoppel would bar a forfeiture under § 1497 if, in the earlier criminal proceeding, the elements of a § 1497 forfeiture had been resolved against the Government. Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 443, 90 S.Ct. 1189, 1194, 25 L.Ed.2d 469 (1970). But in this case acquittal on the criminal charge did not necessarily resolve the issues in the forfeiture action. For the Government to secure a conviction under § 545, it must prove the physical act of unlawful importation as well as a knowing and willful intent to defraud the United States. An acquittal on the criminal charge may have involved a finding that the physical act was not done with the requisite intent. Indeed, the court that tried the criminal charge specifically found that the Government had failed to establish intent.4 To succeed in a forfeiture action under § 1497, on the other hand, the Government need only prove that the property was brought into the United States without the required declaration; the Government bears no burden with respect to intent. Thus, the criminal acquittal may not be regarded as a determination that the property was not unlawfully brought into the United States, and the for- feiture proceeding will not involve an issue previously litigated and finally determined between these parties.5

Moreover, the difference in the burden of proof in criminal and civil cases precludes application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel. The acquittal of the criminal charges may have only represented "an adjudication that the proof was not sufficient to overcome all reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused." Helvering v. Mitchell, 303 U.S. 391, 397, 58 S.Ct. 630, 632, 82 L.Ed. 917 (1938). As to the issues raised, it does not constitute an adjudication on the preponderance-of-the-evidence burden applicable in civil proceedings. See Murphy v. United States, 272 U.S. 630, 47 S.Ct. 218, 71 L.Ed. 446 (1926); Stone v. United States, 167 U.S. 178, 17 S.Ct. 778, 42 L.Ed. 127 (1897).

If for no other reason, the forfeiture is not barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment because it involves neither two criminal trials nor two criminal punishments. 'Congress may impose both a criminal and a civil sanction in respect to the same act or omission; for the double jeopardy clause prohibits merely punishing twice, or attempting a second time to punish criminally, for the same offense.' Helvering v. Mitchell, supra, 303 U.S., at 399, 58 S.Ct. at 633. See also United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, 317 U.S. 537, 63 S.Ct. 379, 8 L.Ed.2d 443 (1943).6 Forfeiture under § 1497 is a civil sanction. The provision was originally enacted as § 497 of the Tariff Act of 1922, 42 Stat. 964. The Tariff Act of 1930 reenacted the forfeiture remedy, 46 Stat. 728, and added § 593, 46 Stat. 751, which became 18 U.S.C. § 545. The forfeiture provision fell within Title IV of the Act, which contained the 'Administrative Provisions.' Part III of that title, of which § 1497 was a part, dealt with 'Ascertainment, Collection, and Recovery of Duties.' Section 545, on the other hand, was part of the 'Enforcement Provisions' and became part of the Criminal Code of the United States. The fact that the sanctions were separate and distinct and were contained in different parts of the statutory scheme is relevant in determining the character of the forfeiture. Congress could and did order both civil and criminal sanctions, clearly distinguishing them. There is no reason for frustrating that design. See Helvering v. Mitchell, supra, 303 U.S., at 404, 58 S.Ct., at 635.

The § 1497 forfeiture is intended to aid in the enforcement of tariff regulations. It prevents forbidden merchandise from circulating in the United States, and, by its monetary penalty, it provides a reasonable form of liquidated damages for violation of the inspection provisions and serves to reimburse the Government for investigation and enforcement expenses. In other contexts we have recognized that such purposes characterize remedial rather than punitive sanctions. See id., at 401, 58 S.Ct., at 634; United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, supra, 317 U.S., at 549—550, 63 S.Ct., at 386, 387; Rex Trailer Co. v. United States, 350 U.S. 148, 151—154, 76 S.Ct. 219, 222, 100 L.Ed. 149 (1956). Moreover, it cannot be said that the measure of recovery fixed by Congress in § 1497 is so unreasonable or excessive that it transforms what was clearly intended as a civil remedy into a criminal penalty. Rex Trailer Co. v. United States, supra, at 154, 76 S.Ct., at 222; See Murphy v. United States, supra; United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, supra.

'Forfeiture of goods or their value and the payment of fixed or variable sums of money are other sanctions which have been recognized as enforceable by civil proceedings . . . In spite of their comparative severity, such sanctions have been upheld against the contention that they are essentially criminal and subject to the procedural rules governing criminal prosecutions.' Helvering v. Mitchell, supra, 303 U.S., at 400, 58 S.Ct., at 633.

The question of whether a given sanction is civil or criminal is one of statutory construction. Id., at 399, 58 S.Ct., at 633. It appears that the § 1497 forfeiture is civil and remedial, and, as a result, its imposition is not barred by an acquittal of charges of violating § 545.

Affirmed.

1 'Whoever knowingly and willfully, with intent to defraud the United States, smuggles, or clandestinely introduces into the United States any merchandise which should have been invoiced, or makes out or passes, or attempts to pass, through the customhouse any false, forged, or fraudulent invoice, or other document or paper; or

'Whoever fraudulently or knowingly imports or brings into the United States, any merchandise contrary to law, or receives, conceals, buys, sells, or in any manner facilitates the transportation, concealment, or sale of such merchandise after importation, knowing the same to have been imported or brought into the United States contrary to law—

'Shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

'Proof of defendant's possession of such goods, unless explained to the satisfaction of the jury, shall be deemed evidence sufficient to authorize conviction for violation of this section.

'Merchandise introduced into the United States in violation of this section, or the value thereof, to be recovered from any person described in the first or second paragraph of this section, shall be forfeited to the United States.

'The term 'United States', as used in this section, shall not include the Philippine Islands, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Wake Island, Midway Islands, Kingman Reef, Johnston Island, or Guam.'

2 Title 19 U.S.C. § 1497 provides:

'Any article not included in the declaration and entry as made, and, before examination of the baggage was begun, not...

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