Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 2 (1994)

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(b) While taxes are usually motivated by revenue-raising rather than punitive purposes, Montana's tax departs far from normal revenue laws. Its high rate and deterrent purpose, in and of themselves, do not necessarily render it punitive, but other unusual features set it apart from most taxes. That it is conditioned on the commission of a crime is significant of penal and prohibitory intent rather than the gathering of revenue. It is also exacted only after the taxpayer has been arrested for the precise conduct that gives rise to the tax obligation in the first place. Since the taxed activity is completely forbidden, the legitimate revenue-raising purpose that might support the tax could be equally well served by increasing the fine imposed upon conviction. In addition, it purports to be a property tax, yet it is levied on goods—here, the destroyed marijuana plants—that the taxpayer neither owns nor possesses. Pp. 780-783. (c) Since tax statutes serve a purpose quite different from civil penalties, it is inappropriate to subject Montana's tax to Halper's test for a civil penalty: whether the penalty is imposed as a remedy for actual costs to the State that are attributable to the defendant's conduct. Moreover, Montana has not claimed that its assessments can be justified on such grounds, and the same formula would have been used to compute the assessment regardless of the State's damages or whether it suffered any damages. Montana's tax is not the kind of remedial sanction that may follow the first punishment of a criminal offense. It is a second punishment that must be imposed during the first prosecution or not at all. P. 784.

986 F. 2d 1308, affirmed.

Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Blackmun, Kennedy, Souter, and Ginsburg, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, C. J., post, p. 785, and O'Connor, J., post, p. 792, filed dissenting opinions. Scalia, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Thomas, J., joined, post, p. 798.

Paul Van Tricht, Special Assistant Attorney General of Montana, argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs was David W. Woodgerd, Special Assistant Attorney General.

James A. Feldman argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days and Deputy Solicitor General Bender.

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