Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 15 (1994)

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

Opinion of the Court

extent by an interest in deterrence. Indeed, although no double jeopardy challenge was at issue, this Court sustained the steep $100-per-ounce federal tax on marijuana in United States v. Sanchez, 340 U. S. 42 (1950). Thus, while a high tax rate and deterrent purpose lend support to the characterization of the drug tax as punishment, these features, in and of themselves, do not necessarily render the tax punitive. Cf. Sonzinsky v. United States, 300 U. S. 506, 513- 514 (1937).

Other unusual features, however, set the Montana statute apart from most taxes. First, this so-called tax is conditioned on the commission of a crime. That condition is "significant of penal and prohibitory intent rather than the gathering of revenue." 19 Moreover, the Court has relied on the absence of such a condition to support its conclusion that a particular federal tax was a civil, rather than a criminal, sanction.20 In this case, the tax assessment not only hinges on the commission of a crime, it also is exacted only after the taxpayer has been arrested for the precise conduct that gives rise to the tax obligation in the first place.21 Per-19 United States v. Constantine, 296 U. S. 287, 295 (1935) (concluding that a tax was motivated by penal instead of revenue-raising intent in part because the taxpayer had to pay an additional sum based on his illegal conduct). See also United States v. La Franca, 282 U. S., at 571, 575 (holding that a liquor tax assessed only against those prosecuted for illegal manufacture or sale of liquor was barred on statutory grounds, thus avoiding the "grave constitutional question" whether double jeopardy principles precluded such an assessment).

20 In Sanchez we examined a federal marijuana tax, IRC 2590-(a)(2) (since repealed, but last codified at 26 U. S. C. 4741 et seq. (1964)), that taxed the transfer of marijuana to a person who has not paid a special tax and registered. Under the statute, the transferor's liability arose when the transferee failed to pay the tax; as a result, "[s]ince his tax liability does not in effect rest on criminal conduct, the tax can be properly called a civil rather than a criminal sanction." 340 U. S., at 45.

21 This statute therefore does not raise the question whether an ostensibly civil proceeding that is designed to inflict punishment may bar a subsequent proceeding that is admittedly criminal in character. See Justice


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