SW Legal studies in Business

Forfeiture of All Cash Being Smuggled Is Fitting Penalty

Appeals court held that the forfeiture of a large quantity of cash not reported when being taken out of the country does not violate the Eighth Amendment restriction on excessive fines. Taking large quantities of unreported cash out of the country is linked to criminal activity, so the penalty is not excessive.

Topic Criminal Law
Key Words

Forfeiture; Currency; Eighth Amendment

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Otilio Jose was flying from Puerto Rico to St. Maarten. When his luggage was inspected in Puerto Rico, Customs officers discovered $114,948 in cash. When then asked if he had any cash to declare, as federal law requires persons to declare cash in excess of $10,000 being transported in or out of the country, Jose stated that he had $1,400. When confronted, he claimed he found the money in a trash can. He was convicted of knowingly and willfully failing to file a report when he was about to transport more than $10,000 out of the U.S., of making a materially false or fraudulent statement in the matter to Homeland Security officials, and of knowingly and willfully concealing more than $10,000 in currency in an attempt to transport the currency out of the country without filing a Treasury report. Jose was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to forfeit the $114,948 to the government. Jose appealed.


Affirmed. The prison sentence was not appealed; the forfeiture was. Jose contends that the forfeiture violates the Eighth Amendment restriction on “excessive fines.” The forfeiture is not excessive in violation of the Amendment. Congress made clear the gravity of the offense of bulk cash smuggling, as it is linked to serious criminal activity. In any event, forfeiture would not deprive Jose of his livelihood, so he cannot contend it injures him particularly.


U.S. v. Jose, 499 F.3d 105 (1st Cir., 2007)

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