The Supreme Court has recently reversed two drug forfeiture decisions in light of its decision in Honeycutt v. United States. Sentencing Resource Counsel Ada (“Sissy”) Phleger has the details:
“In the last two weeks the Supreme Court has granted, vacated, and remanded (GVR’ed) two cases in light of last summer’s Honeycutt v. United States, 581 U.S. ___ (2017), dealing with joint-and-several liability for forfeiture in drug conspiracies. Chittenden v. United States (No. 17-5100) and Brown v. United States (No. 16-9747).
“The Court in Honeycutt considered the language of 21 U.S.C. § 853(a)(1), mandating forfeiture of “any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds the person obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of” certain drug crimes. At the Government’s urging, the Sixth Circuit had interpreted this language to hold the defendant jointly-and-severally liable for all proceeds of the conspiracy, even though the Government conceded that the defendant himself had not actually personally profited from the conspiracy at all. The Supreme Court rejected this, holding that forfeiture under § 853(a)(1) was strictly limited to property the defendant himself actually obtained as a result of the crime. So, even though the co-defendant who had profited pled to a pennies-on-the-dollar forfeiture, the Government was not permitted to make up the difference by seizing unrelated money/property from Mr. Honeycutt. Finding the statutory language clear, the Court dismissed the Government’s generalized urgings about the breadth of conspiracy liability.”