Should Feds Freeze Defendants’ Pre-Trial Assets? [Poll]
After an indictment, federal law allows a district court to freeze criminal defendants’ assets that would be subject to forfeiture upon conviction. But defendants sometimes need those assets to hire their chosen counsel. Should defendants have a right to a hearing to challenge the charges and forfeiture before the trial? Otherwise, does such freezing of assets violate the defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fifth Amendment right against governmental taking of property without due process?
On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Kaley v. United States. Kerri and Brian Kaley are accused of stealing and reselling medical devices. They took out a $500,000 line of credit on their house to pay their legal defense. But the federal government froze those assets, saying it intended to seize the house.
The Kaleys argue they are being deprived of their assets without a criminal conviction, and are unable to hire counsel of their choice. They requested a hearing to challenge the freezing of their assets. Seizure of assets gained popular acceptance with cases against drug lords and mobsters. But these laws also impact cases of ordinary people, including those wrongly accused of crimes.
The feds argue a grand jury indictment shows enough evidence that assets were illegally obtained through illegal activity. Plus, pretrial hearings could endanger witnesses and unfairly force the government to reveal its case prior to trial.
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