A recent decision from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is a reminder of both the strength of federal forfeiture laws and the limits on the right to appellate counsel. On a practical level, it illustrates the danger of assuming that assets that might be subject to postconviction forfeiture will be available to pay for an appeal.
Following his convictions for a host of drug, conspiracy, and money laundering offenses, and following the court's order for forfeiture in the amount of $51.3 million, the defendant in United States v. Marshall, 872 F.3d 213 (4th Cir. 2017), made a motion in the district court to release $59,000 in the defendant's credit union account in order to pay for his appeal. The motion correctly noted that the order of forfeiture did not specifically mention the $59,000 credit union assets. Although the Government previously had filed a bill of particulars providing notice that it intended to seek the forfeiture of the $59,000 in the credit union account, the bill did not indicate whether the Government classified the credit union funds as assets derived from the crimes pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(a) or substitute assets pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(p), that is, assets that are a substitute for assets derived from the crime that cannot be located due to an act or omission of the defendant. Three and one-half weeks later, the Government filed—and the district court granted—a motion for a second order of forfeiture, specifically requesting the forfeiture of the funds in the credit union account and classifying them as substitute assets. The defendant then brought his motion to use the "untainted" substitute assets to pay for his appeal in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which stayed appellate proceedings while it decided the motion. The court ultimately denied his motion.Read More