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Austin v. United States

United States Supreme Court
509 U.S. 602 (1993)


Richard Austin (defendant) agreed to sell cocaine to someone. Austin then went to his mobile home, returned to his auto body shop with cocaine, and sold it. After Austin pleaded guilty to dealing drugs, the government (plaintiff) filed an in rem proceeding under 21 U.S.C. § 881(a) seeking forfeiture of Austin’s mobile home and body shop. Austin countered that forfeiture would violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The trial court nonetheless granted the government summary judgment. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Excessive Fines Clause did not apply to in rem forfeiture proceedings. Noting a split among the circuits, the Supreme Court granted review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

Concurrence (Kennedy, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

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