(NaturalNews) Is the U.S. Supreme Court set to give prosecutors authority to strip defendants of their own means of self-defense? It’s possible, depending upon what the high court decides in a very important case that could determine your ability to maintain enough resources to hire a defense lawyer.
In Luis v. US, federal prosecutors are arguing that the government has the power to freeze all of a defendant’s assets, including those that were not earned through criminal activity, in the latest twist and insult to freedom involving civil asset forfeiture.
“What the government proposes to do is financially cripple someone before they’ve been convicted, before they’ve had a trial and not allow them to use assets that are theirs to try to match the government in the courtroom,” defense attorney Howard Srebnick told reporters, in reference to oral arguments made before the high court by U.S. attorneys Nov. 10.
As noted by Off The Grid News:
Srebnick is representing Sila Luis, who owns home health care companies and is accused of a scam to defraud Medicare. The US attorney froze all of Luis’s assets, including money not related to the alleged fraud, after it indicted her in 2012, NPRreported. Srebnick contends that deprives Luis of her Sixth Amendment right to counsel by taking away money she could use to hire a defense attorney.
Federal prosecutors allege that Luis will not have enough funds left over to pay restitution to Medicare if she is permitted to use her available resources to hire a defense lawyer. But in court proceedings, the government has stipulated that not all of Luis’ assets were earned dishonestly.
Isn’t the Constitution clear?
The Sixth Amendment states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Luis’ attorney is arguing that the government wants to deprive his client of her right to “have the Assistance of Counsel.”
Justices appeared divided on the case, Off The Grid News reported, noting specifically that Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the high court’s liberals, was skeptical of the government’s allegation.
“The principle is that the government, without proving that he’s guilty of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt, can take all of his money,” he said, referencing a theoretic defendant. “I’ve never heard of such a principle.
“And I’m saying it’s pretty hard for me to think in a country which says that before he’s convicted, you have to release him on bail except in unusual circumstances, that nonetheless, you can take all his money away so he can’t hire a lawyer,” he added.
“This could apply to any law on the books”
However, one of the court’s constitutional originalists, Justice Samuel Alito, asked Srebnick tough questions in making a case that, if his client spends all her assets, then she won’t be able to repay victims of an apparent scam if she is convicted.
“Your answer is that the defendant’s right to hire counsel of choice takes precedence over the rights of the victims, and you would say that no matter how strong the proof is?” Alito asked, according to OTG News.
And the court’s historic swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, wondered aloud what precedent the high court would establish by ruling in favor of the government.
“It seems to me if the government prevails in this case, every state in the union, every locality could say that in the event of… any crime involving bodily injury… that the government is entitled to [freeze assets] even if the consequence is that in most of those cases most people would not be able to afford counsel,” he said.
Added Chief Justice John Roberts, “This could apply to any law on the books.”
Written by J. D. Heyes
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