The United States Supreme Court has ruled* that the assets of a criminal defendant, if not linked to his or her crime, cannot be frozen to pay fines & restitution if convicted, when those funds are needed to retain and pay defense counsel. The opinion, which was published on March 30, 2016, was a 5-to-3 decision, reversing the judgment of the District Court, which the Eleventh Circuit had affirmed.
The defendant, Sila Luis, of Florida, was charged with healthcare fraud, involving $45m in charges for services that were non-existent, or not needed. She had $2m in funds, which were not connected to her crime. The Court froze that money, but the defendant asserted that she needed it to pay her attorneys. The government wanted that money available, for fines and restitution, after her anticipated conviction.
The US Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel was a fundamental Constitutional guarantee, while the government's interest in recovering those funds, while important, was trumped by the right to hire an attorney.
Readers who wish to review the complete text of the Opinion can access it through the footnote below.
*Sila Luis vs. United States, Case No: 14-419 (S. Ct. 2016)