US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the government can freeze assets even if they’re needed by criminal defendants to hire private attorneys.
The case was brought by New York residents Kerri and Brian Kaley, who were charged in 2007 with stealing and reselling used prescription medical devices that had been discarded by hospitals. The government won court approval to freeze the couple’s assets, including their home and a $500,000 certificate of deposit.
According to WZZM13.Com news, the Kaleys’ challenge was based on several factors: that they didn’t steal the medical devices, that their profits were not linked to the seized property, and that they could not hire good lawyers without access to their money. They cited the 5th Amendment’s due process protection against the loss of property and the 6th Amendment’s guarantee of the right to counsel.
The Star Tribune has noted the issue is especially salient because the Justice Department is seizing more property than ever. More than $4.2 billion was deposited in the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund in the government spending year that ended Sept. 30, 2012. That compares with about $1.6 billion in each of the two previous years.
The Kaleys were ensnared in a federal investigation into the resale of medical devices in 2005. Kerri Kaley was a sales representative for a company that sold surgical devices and supplies. Her lawyers say she was legally allowed to resell items that hospitals wanted to replace with newer and better equipment. The hospitals were happy to get the items off their shelves and Kaley’s employer did not want them back.
The case is Kaley v. U.S., 12-464.