Austin v. United States

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Austin v. United States
Argued April 20, 1993
Decided June 28, 1993
Full case nameAustin v. United States
Docket no.92-6073
Citations509 U.S. 602 (more)
113 S. Ct. 2801; 125 L. Ed. 2d 488
Case history
PriorUnited States v. One Parcel of Prop. Located at 508 Depot St., 964 F.2d 814 (8th Cir. 1992); cert. granted, 506 U.S. 1074 (1993).
Forfeiture under §§881(a)(4) and (a)(7) is a monetary punishment and, as such, is subject to the limitations of the Excessive Fines Clause.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
Byron White · Harry Blackmun
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Case opinions
MajorityBlackmun, joined by White, Stevens, O'Connor, Souter
ConcurrenceKennedy, joined by Rehnquist, Thomas

Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602 (1993), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to civil forfeiture cases.[1]


Richard Lyle Austin was indicted for violating South Dakota's drug laws.[2] He pleaded guilty to one count of possession cocaine with intent to distribute and was sentenced to seven years in jail.[2] The United States then filed an in rem action, seeking forfeiture of Austin's mobile home and auto body shop under federal statutes that provide for forfeiture of property that is used or intended for use to facilitate the transportation of controlled substances, or related materials.[3] Austin argued that forfeiture of his property would violate the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause.[4]

Opinion of the Court[edit]

In an opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, the Court held that civil forfeiture proceedings are "subject to the limitations of the Eight Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause."[5] Justice Antonin Scalia filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, writing that the majority should not have decided whether in rem forfeitures always amount to a punishment of the owner.[6] Justice Anthony Kennedy also filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment which was joined by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, 604 (1993).
  2. ^ a b Austin, 509 U.S. at 604.
  3. ^ Austin, 509 U.S. at 60405 (citing 21 U.S.C. §§ 881(a)(4), (a)(7).
  4. ^ Austin, 509 U.S. at 605.
  5. ^ Austin, 509 U.S. at 622.
  6. ^ Austin, 509 U.S. at 626-27 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment).
  7. ^ Austin, 509 U.S. at 628 (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment).

External links[edit]