United States v. Cyr

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 08-21-2014
  • Case #: 12-56988
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Tashima and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

Forfeiture does not violate the Excessive Fines clause of the United States Constitution as long as the forfeiture is not grossly disproportional to the gravity of the defendant’s offense.

Alain Cyr failed to report $132,245 he brought into the United States. Officers discovered the money when they searched Cyr’s vehicle and found the money, which had a narcotic substance odor to it. Following the seizure of the cash and arrest of Cyr, a civil forfeiture action was brought for all of the money. Cyr stipulated that the money was subject to forfeiture. However, Cyr appealed the district court’s decision arguing that the forfeiture was excessive. The Ninth Circuit held that under 18 U.S.C. § 983(g)(3), in order for the forfeiture to be unconstitutional, Cyr needed to establish that the forfeiture was “grossly disproportional to the gravity of the offense,” which he failed to do. In weighing the gravity of the offense, the panel looked at “(1) the nature and extent of the crime, (2) whether the violation was related to other illegal activities, (3) the other penalties that may be imposed for the violation, and (4) the extent of the harm caused.” The panel determined that the forfeiture of all the money was not an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment due to: (1) bulk cash smuggling being a serious offense; (2) the money most likely being connected to drug trafficking; (3) Cyr failing to show that the forfeiture violated the Sentencing Guidelines; and, (4) the fact that the money was most likely connected to drug trafficking constituted a significant harm. AFFIRMED.

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