Second Circuit Shifts Burden of Showing Assets to Defendants; Clarifies Monsanto Decision

Both civil and criminal agencies charged with enforcing U.S. laws have turned increasingly to broad based use of “asset freeze orders.” Legal counsel and their clients should understand the issue, particularly as there is a split in the Circuits and the Supreme Court has not yet addressed the issue. On June 19, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion “clarifying” its 1991 decision in U.S. v. Monsanto, where it held that a (criminal) defendant who wishes to use frozen funds for their defense is entitled to a pretrial hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crimes that formed the basis for the forfeiture and whether the funds are forfeitable. In U.S. v. Bonventre, the Second Circuit ruled that a defendant must first make a “threshold showing” that a Monsanto hearing is warranted.

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