Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 11 (1994)

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

Opinion of the Court

the court's view, a civil penalty "more than 220 times greater than the Government's measurable los[s] qualified as punishment" that was barred by the Double Jeopardy Clause. Ibid.

On direct appeal to this Court, we rejected the Government's submission that the Double Jeopardy Clause only applied to punishment imposed in criminal proceedings, reasoning that its violation "can be identified only by assessing the character of the actual sanctions imposed on the individual by the machinery of the state." Id., at 447.14 In making

such an assessment, "the labels 'criminal' and 'civil' are not of paramount importance." Ibid. Accepting the District Court's findings, we held that "a defendant who already has been punished in a criminal prosecution may not be subjected to an additional civil sanction to the extent that the second sanction may not fairly be characterized as remedial, but only as a deterrent or retribution." Id., at 448-449.

Halper thus decided that the legislature's description of a statute as civil does not foreclose the possibility that it has a punitive character.15 We also recognized in Halper that a so-called civil "penalty" may be remedial in character if it merely reimburses the government for its actual costs arising from the defendant's criminal conduct. Id., at 449-450,

14 We noted, however, that whether a sanction constitutes punishment is not determined from the defendant's perspective, as even remedial sanctions carry the "sting of punishment." 490 U. S., at 447, n. 7 (citing United States ex rel. Marcus v. Hess, 317 U. S. 537, 551 (1943)).

15 Notably, in reaching that conclusion we relied in part on an earlier case recognizing that a tax statute might be considered punitive in character for double jeopardy purposes. See 490 U. S., at 443. That case, United States v. La Franca, 282 U. S. 568 (1931), observed that the words "tax" and "penalty" "are not interchangeable, one for the other" and that "if an exaction be clearly a penalty it cannot be converted into a tax by the simple expedient of calling it such." Id., at 572. See also Lipke v. Lederer, 259 U. S. 557, 561 (1922) ("The mere use of the word 'tax' in an act primarily designed to define and suppress crime is not enough to show that within the true intendment of the term a tax was laid").


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