United States v. United States Coin & Currency

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: United States Coin & Currency
LOCATION: City of Los Angeles

DOCKET NO.: 5
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

CITATION: 401 US 715 (1971)
ARGUED: Feb 25, 1969 / Feb 26, 1969
REARGUED: Oct 20, 1970
DECIDED: Apr 05, 1971

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. United States Coin & Currency

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 25, 1969 in United States v. United States Coin & Currency
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 20, 1970 in United States v. United States Coin & Currency

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 26, 1969 in United States v. United States Coin & Currency

Earl Warren:

United States, petitioner versus United States Coin and Currency, etcetera.

Mr. Lacovara.

Philip A. Lacovara:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

I would like to resume this morning by restating briefly the Government's basic position in this internal revenue forfeiture case and it is that unlike Marchetti and Grosso which involved criminal punishment for refusing to come forward to disclose information that would have been incriminatory.

Internal revenue forfeitures of the type involved in this case do not involve any punishment for anyone's invocation of the privilege against self-incrimination, rather we submit unlike the common law type of forfeiture which attached in persona upon the criminal conviction of a felon.

Internal revenue forfeitures historically and legally are quite different, critically different we think for these purposes, and that liability or guilt if you choose to use that term attaches directly for the -- to the property and not to any person, and the forfeiture is not punishment directed at anyone, but a simply a remedial device for safeguarding the public fisc.

Potter Stewart:

Of course, the property belongs to somebody.

Philip A. Lacovara:

Normally, the property belongs to someone, yes.

Potter Stewart:

The property means, it belongs to somebody.

Philip A. Lacovara:

The idea (Voice Overlap)

Potter Stewart:

The semantics, that's --

Philip A. Lacovara:

Yes.

Potter Stewart:

The derivation of the word property.

Philip A. Lacovara:

That's right.

The forfeiture statutes like the one in question declare that property rights shall not exist in property in physical items any longer after certain conditions are met.

So, there is undoubtedly an item that was at one point, someone's property which no longer is his.

Potter Stewart:

And this was some eight -- between $8,000.00 and $9,000.00 in this case.

Philip A. Lacovara:

This was $8,674.00 which belonged to someone we know not, Donald Angelini claims the property.

It was in his pocket.

It was seized when he was arrested at Sportsman's Park in August of 1964.

Potter Stewart:

And the same rule that you're contending for would have applied whether it had been five cents or $5 million?

Philip A. Lacovara:

That's right.

Potter Stewart:

Has no relationship at all to any tax liability he might have had.

So --

Philip A. Lacovara:

That's correct.

We think that indicates --

Byron R. White:

You mean an amount?

Philip A. Lacovara:

Pardon me?

Byron R. White:

You mean an amount?

Potter Stewart:

That's what I meant.