Does Punitive Forfeiture Violate the Excessive Fines Clause If It Is Grossly Disproportional to the Gravity of An Offense ?
In United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321, 118 S. Ct. 2028, 141 L. Ed. 2d 314 (1998) the court was asked to determine whether forfeiture of $ 357,144 due to the defendant's violation of 31 U.S.C. 5316(a)(1)(A), requiring a person to report that he or she is transporting more than $ 10,000 out of the United States, would violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
The court adopted the standard that a punitive forfeiture would violate the Excessive Fines Clause "if it is grossly disproportional to the gravity of a defendant's offense." Bajakajian at 334.
The standard would be applied by comparing the amount of the forfeiture to the gravity of the offense, and if the amount of the forfeiture is in gross disproportion to the offense, it is unconstitutional.
The court also enumerated factors limited to the conduct of the defendant for measuring the gravity of the offense, including a comparison of the penalty imposed to the maximum penalty available, a determination of whether the violation was isolated or was part of a pattern of misbehavior and an assessment of the harm that resulted from the offense charged.
Considering all of these factors, the court ruled that forfeiture of the $ 357,144 would be grossly disproportional to the gravity of the offense in violation of the Excessive Fines Clause.