Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 12 (1994)

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Opinion of the Court

452. We therefore remanded the case to the District Court to determine what portion of the statutory penalty could be sustained as compensation for the Government's actual damages.

Halper did not, however, consider whether a tax may similarly be characterized as punitive.


Criminal fines, civil penalties, civil forfeitures, and taxes all share certain features: They generate government revenues, impose fiscal burdens on individuals, and deter certain behavior. All of these sanctions are subject to constitutional constraints. A government may not impose criminal fines without first establishing guilt by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Cf. In re Winship, 397 U. S. 358 (1970). A defendant convicted and punished for an offense may not have a nonremedial civil penalty imposed against him for the same offense in a separate proceeding. United States v. Halper, 490 U. S. 435 (1989). A civil forfeiture may violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription against excessive fines. Austin v. United States, 509 U. S. 602 (1993). And a statute imposing a tax on unlawful conduct may be invalid because its reporting requirements compel taxpayers to incriminate themselves. Marchetti v. United States, 390 U. S. 39 (1968).

As a general matter, the unlawfulness of an activity

does not prevent its taxation. Id., at 44; United States v. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287, 293 (1935); James v. United States, 366 U. S. 213 (1961). Montana no doubt could collect its tax on the possession of marijuana, for example, if it had not previously punished the taxpayer for the same offense, or, indeed, if it had assessed the tax in the same proceeding that resulted in his conviction. Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U. S. 359, 368-369 (1983); see also Halper, 490 U. S., at 450. Here, we ask only whether the tax has punitive characteris-

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