Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chaplin: $1.8 million forfeiture not excessive

In U.S. v. Chaplin’s, No. 10-10832 (July 13, 2011), the Court rejected an argument that a forfeiture order exceeded the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.

Chaplin’s was a jewelry store in Atlanta, Georgia, convicted, after a government sting, of money laundering the proceeds of drug trafficking.

At sentencing, the Court imposed a $100,000 fine and ordered forfeiture of $1,877,262. Chaplin’s argued that the forfeiture was unconstitutionally excessive.

The Court noted that a fine is unconstitutionally excessive when it is “grossly disproportional to the gravity of a defendant’s offense.” The Court found that the $1,877, 262 forfeiture was not unconstitutionally excessive. The Court noted that the maximum fine was $1,500,000, and the Guideline range was $650,000 to $1,300,000. Even though Chaplin’s violation involved a government sting, it was a serious money laundering crime, and not an isolated event. The sentencing court stated that it imposed only a $100,000 fine because it had already ordered forfeiture of Chaplin’s jewelry inventory. Though the forfeiture exceeded the statutory maximum fine, the crime was more serious than the conduct in cases where courts found a forfeiture award excessive.