Department of Revenue of Mont. v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, 18 (1994)

Page:   Index   Previous  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  Next



Opinion of the Court


Because Montana's tax is fairly characterized as punishment, the judgment of the Court of Appeals must be affirmed. In Halper, we recognized that a civil penalty may be imposed as a remedy for actual costs to the State that are attributable to the defendant's conduct. 490 U. S., at 452. Yet as The Chief Justice points out, tax statutes serve a purpose quite different from civil penalties, and Halper's method of determining whether the exaction was remedial or punitive "simply does not work in the case of a tax statute." Post, at 787 (dissenting opinion). Subjecting Montana's drug tax to Halper's test for civil penalties is therefore inappropriate. Even if it were proper to permit such a showing, Montana has not claimed that its assessment in this case even remotely approximates the cost of investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting the Kurths, or that it roughly relates to any actual damages that they caused the State. And in any event, the formula by which Montana computed the tax assessment would have been the same regardless of the amount of the State's damages and, indeed, regardless of whether it suffered any harm at all.

This drug tax is not the kind of remedial sanction that may follow the first punishment of a criminal offense. Instead, it is a second punishment within the contemplation of a constitutional protection that has "deep roots in our history and jurisprudence," Halper, 490 U. S., at 440, and therefore must be imposed during the first prosecution or not at all. The proceeding Montana initiated to collect a tax on the possession of drugs was the functional equivalent of a successive criminal prosecution that placed the Kurths in jeopardy a second time "for the same offence."

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

Page:   Index   Previous  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007