Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 9 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 767 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

and the DOR's failure to provide an accounting of its actual damages or costs convinced the Bankruptcy Court that the tax assessments violated the Fifth Amendment's Double Jeopardy Clause. Ibid.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also affirmed, but based its conclusion largely on the State's refusal to offer evidence justifying the tax, and accordingly refused to hold the tax unconstitutional on its face. In re Kurth Ranch, 986 F. 2d 1308, 1312 (1993). The court first determined that under Halper, a disproportionately large civil penalty can be punitive for double jeopardy purposes. 986 F. 2d, at 1310. That the assessment is called a tax, as opposed to some kind of penalty, is not controlling. Id., at 1310-1311. The central inquiry under Halper, the court determined, is whether the sanction imposed is rationally related to the damages the government suffered. 986 F. 2d, at 1311. That inquiry only applies to cases in which there has been a separate criminal conviction, however.13 The court concluded that the Kurths were entitled to an accounting to determine if the sanction constitutes an impermissible second punishment, and because the State refused to offer any such evidence, it held the tax unconstitutional as applied to the Kurths. Id., at 1312.

While this case was pending on appeal, the Montana Supreme Court reversed two lower state-court decisions that had held that the Dangerous Drug Tax Act was a form of double jeopardy. Sorensen v. State Dept. of Revenue, 254 Mont. 61, 836 P. 2d 29 (1992). Over the dissent of two jus-13 It is on this basis that the court distinguished this Court's cases holding a federal marijuana tax to be nonpunitive, see Minor v. United States, 396 U. S. 87 (1969); United States v. Sanchez, 340 U. S. 42 (1950), which did not involve previous criminal convictions. 986 F. 2d, at 1311. The court acknowledged that a State may legitimately tax criminal activities, ibid., (citing Marchetti v. United States, 390 U. S. 39, 44 (1968)), and that a civil sanction need not satisfy a remedial analysis when it is imposed apart from a criminal conviction. 986 F. 2d, at 1311 (citing Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Montana, 453 U. S. 609, 623 (1981)).


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