United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE GORDON P. GALLAGHER
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on two Recommendations by United
States Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher (Doc. ## 45, 46),
wherein he recommends that the Court deny the Claimant's
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 23) and strike the Claimant's
Twelfth Affirmative Defense (Doc. # 15 at 8-9.) The
Recommendations are incorporated herein by reference.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Recommendations advised the parties that specific written
objections were due within fourteen (14) days after being
served with a copy of the Recommendation. (Doc. # 45 at 1,
n.2.) The Claimant timely filed his objection within fourteen
days, challenging both Recommendations entirely. (Doc. # 47.)
The Court is thus required to determine the disputed issues
de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). In so doing, the Court
“may accept, reject, or modify the recommended
Government filed its Complaint for forfeiture in rem
alleging that Claimant's $114, 700.00 in currency
constitutes proceeds traceable to narcotics trafficking in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 881(a)(6). (Doc. # 1.) To
prevail at trial, the Government must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to
forfeiture. 18 U.S.C. § 983(c). In other words, the
Government must prove that it is more likely than not that
the proceeds are traceable to an exchange of controlled
substances. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 371-72
(1970) (Harlan, J., concurring) (explaining the preponderance
of the evidence standard).
filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12, alleging that both 21 U.S.C.
§ 881(a)(6) and 18 U.S.C. § 983(c) violate the
United States Constitution under the Due Process Clause.
(Doc. # 23.) Claimant raises the same constitutional argument
as an affirmative defense in his Answer. (Doc. # 15 at 8-9.)
In both instances, Claimant argues that the forfeiture
statute is unenforceable, requiring either complete dismissal
of this case or, at the very least, the application of a
heightened burden. (Doc. ## 15 at 8-9; 47 at 1.)
Judge Gallagher disagreed with Claimaint's arguments,
recommending instead that Claimant's Motion to Dismiss be
denied and his affirmative defense be stricken. (Doc. # 45.)
Having reviewed the issues de novo, the Court agrees with
Magistrate Judge Gallagher with respect to both
CONSTITUTIONALITY OF 18 U.S.C. §
Court considers three factors when determining whether the
standard of proof in a particular proceeding comports with
due process: (1) the individual interest affected by the
proceeding; (2) the risk of error created by the procedure;
and (3) the countervailing governmental interest supporting
the challenged procedure. Santosky v. Kramer, 455
U.S. 745, 754 (1982). The Court finds that all three factors
weigh in favor of upholding the constitutionality of 18
U.S.C. § 983(c).
THE INDIVIDUAL INTEREST
to U.S. Const. amend. V, no person can be deprived of life,
liberty, or property without due process of law. However,
neither life nor liberty interests are at stake in this case.
Rather, the deprivation at issue is property-specifically,
currency allegedly stemming from illegal drug activity.
argues, however, that this action involves more than the mere
loss of money because it is significantly punitive and
criminal in nature, thereby necessitating the application of
a heightened beyond a reasonable doubt standard. (Doc ## 23
at 2, 5; 47 at 16.) Indeed, whether “forfeiture is
characterized as civil or criminal carries important
implications for a variety of procedural protections”
which include proper standards of proof. Leonard v.
Texas, 137 S.Ct. 847, 849-50 (2017) (denying petition
for a writ of certiorari).
Court, however, rejects Claimant's arguments because the
Supreme Court has already spoken on this issue. In United
States v. Ursery, 518 U.S. 267, 292 (1996), citing to
numerous cases supporting its conclusion, the Supreme Court
held that forfeiture proceedings under 21 U.S.C. § 881
“are neither punishment nor criminal for purposes of
the Double Jeopardy Clause.” United States v.
Ursery, 518 U.S. 267, 278-292 (1996). It added that
“there is little doubt that Congress intended
proceedings under §§ 881 and 981 to be
civil[.]” Id. at 288. The Court further
explained, “To the extent that § 881(a)(6) applies
to ‘proceeds' of illegal drug activity, it serves
the additional nonpunitive goal of ensuring that persons ...