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United States v. 132

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, ALAIN CYR, Claimant-Appellant,
v.
$132,245.00 IN U.S. CURRENCY, Defendant

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California: April 10, 2014

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:11-cv-07180-R-CW. Manuel L. Real, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Civil Forfeiture

The panel affirmed the district court's decision forfeiting $132,245 for failure to report the currency when crossing the United States border in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5316, and for bulk cash smuggling, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5332.

The panel compared the gravity of the claimant's offense with the amount to be forfeited, and held that forfeiture of all $132,245 did not violate the Excessive Fines clause of the United States Constitution.

Richard Kaplan (argued), Kaplan Marino, P.C., Beverly Hills, California; Eric Honig, Law Office of Eric Honig, Marina del Rey, California, for Claimant-Appellant.

Steven Reuben Welk (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Asset Forfeiture Section; André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney; Robert E. Dugdale, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Criminal Division; P. Greg Parham, Assistant United States Attorney, Asset Forfeiture Section; Office of the United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: A. Wallace Tashima, N. Randy Smith, and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge N.R. Smith.

OPINION

Page 1056

N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Alain Cyr appeals the district court's decision forfeiting $132,245 for failure to report the currency when crossing the United States border in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5316, see 31 U.S.C. § 5317(c), and for bulk cash smuggling, id. § 5332. Cyr argues the forfeiture constitutes an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment.

Congress's enactment of 31 U.S.C. § 5332, which prohibits the act of bulk cash smuggling, affects the excessiveness analysis in bulk cash smuggling cases. A violation of § 5332, when connected with illegal activity, constitutes a serious crime that inflicts significant harm. See United States v. Del Toro-Barboza, 673 F.3d 1136, 1154 (9th Cir. 2012). " Congress has thus tipped the forfeiture equation in favor of the [government] in bulk cash smuggling cases." United States v. Jose, 499 F.3d 105, 111 (1st Cir. 2007). Accordingly, we affirm the district court.

FACTS

Cyr is a Canadian resident. On March 12, 2011, he flew from Montreal to Los Angeles carrying $132,245 in United States currency. Upon arrival in the United States, Cyr failed to report the cash on a

Page 1057

customs declaration form. Nine days later, as Cyr drove from Palm Springs to Los Angeles, a deputy sheriff pulled Cyr over for speeding. The deputy sheriff observed that Cyr was " extremely nervous, squirming in his seat." Upon the deputy sheriff's request, Cyr allowed the deputy sheriff to search Cyr's car; the deputy sheriff found a bag containing the $132,245. With Cyr's consent, a drug dog (Jasper), inspected the cash and ...


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