Honeycutt v. United States of America

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: December 9, 2016
  • Case #: 16-142
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 816 F.3d 362 (6th Cir. 2016)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether there is joint and several liability for co-conspirators to forfeit funds from a drug conspiracy under 21 USC § 853(a)(1)?

21 USC § 853(a)(1) requires individuals convicted of a federal drug crime to forfeit all property they acquired through the commission of the offense. Petitioner worked at a hardware store owned by his brother and noticed a larger number of “edgy looking folks” purchasing a water purification product. Petitioner was eventually convicted of two counts of conspiracy to distribute iodine knowing or having reasonable cause to believe it could be used to make methamphetamine, as well as nine other counts related to iodine distribution. The United States sought forfeiture in the amount of $269,751.98 and Petitioner objected, argued that he should not be required to forfeit anything, as he did not profit, his brother did. The district court agreed and did not require forfeiture. The Sixth Circuit reversed the decision holding the Petitioner jointly and severally liable and requiring the forfeiture of the funds. There is currently a circuit split regarding joint and several liability in this context, with the Sixth Circuit joining the Second, Third, Fourth, and Eighth Circuits in holding conspirators jointly and severally liable while the D.C. Court has declined to impose joint and several liability on co-conspirators. Petitioner seeks review on the grounds that the Sixth Circuit approach, and in turn its decision, was wrong based upon the plain text reading of 21 USC § 853(a)(1). Petitioner also insists that resolving this case will address the current circuit split and that the straightforward facts of this case will make the resolution of the split easy for the Court. 

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