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Law School Case Brief

Luis v. United States - 136 S. Ct. 1083 (2016)

Rule:

A federal statute provides that a court may freeze before trial certain assets belonging to a criminal defendant accused of violations of federal health care or banking laws. 18 U.S.C.S. § 1345. Those assets include: (1) property obtained as a result of the crime; (2) property traceable to the crime; and (3) other property of equivalent value. § 1345(a)(2).

Facts:

A federal statute provides that a court may freeze before trial certain assets belonging to a defendant accused of violations of federal health care or banking laws. Those assets include (1) property “obtained as a result of” the crime, (2) property “traceable” to the crime, and (3), as relevant here, other “property of equivalent value.” 18 U.S.C. §1345(a)(2). The Government has charged petitioner Luis with fraudulently obtaining nearly $45 million through crimes related to health care. In order to preserve the $2 million remaining in Luis' possession for payment of restitution and other criminal penalties, the Government secured a pretrial order prohibiting Luis from dissipating her assets, including assets unrelated to her alleged crimes. Though the District Court recognized that the order might prevent Luis from obtaining counsel of her choice, it held that the Sixth Amendment did not give her the right to use her own untainted funds for that purpose. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Issue:

Was the freezing of assets proper?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The government improperly froze assets of a defendant who was indicted for violations of health care laws since the assets had no connection to the charged crimes, and depriving the defendant of the untainted assets intended to pay for counsel undermined the defendant's fundamental right to the assistance of counsel of the defendant's choice at the defendant's expense; The government's non-constitutional interest in preserving the assets to provide for payment of potential criminal forfeitures or restitution if the defendant was convicted was not the equivalent of the defendant's constitutional right to the assistance of counsel of the defendant's choice.

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