The United States Supreme Court Limited the Right of the Government to Freeze Assets That Are Not Tied to Crimes.

The United States Supreme Court announced its decision in an important case that involved two important rights—the right to an attorney and the right of the government to freeze and later forfeit defendants’ assets.

In 2012, Sila Luis was indicted for federal health-care fraud in the amount of $45 million. Ms. Luis had $2 million in assets when a federal grand jury indicted her. Ms. Luis did not earn those assets through any allegedly illegal scheme. She said that she hoped to use the funds to pay for her legal defense.

At the same time, the Government secured a pretrial order prohibiting Ms. Luis from dissipating her assets, including assets unrelated to her alleged crimes. CASE. The Government argued that 18 U.S.C. § 1345(a)(2) allowed to do that.

According to 18 U.S.C. § 1345(a)(2):

If a person is alienating or disposing of property, or intends to alienate or dispose of property, obtained as a result of a banking law violation … or a federal health care offense … the attorney general may commence a civil action in any Federal court — (A) to enjoin such alienation or disposition of property; or (B) for a restraining order to … prohibit any person from withdrawing, transferring, removing, dissipating, or disposing of any such property or property of equivalent value.

As a result, virtually all Ms. Luis’s assets—including those she obtained lawfully—were frozen.  Ms. Luis argued that applying this statute to her and seizing those untainted funds would violate her Sixth Amendment right to seek assistance of counsel of her choice. Though the District Court recognized CASE that the order might prevent Luis from obtaining counsel of her choice, it held that the Sixth Amendment did not give her the right to use her own untainted funds for that purpose. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

The Supreme Court disagreed and prohibited the government from seizing legitimate funds that defendants could use to hire a lawyer of their choice. The Supreme Court vacated the judgement and remanded the case.

In the plurality opinion, Justice Breyer wrote, that the right to counsel is a fundamental constitutional guarantee. At the same time, the government’s interest in recovering money is merely important. However, the right to counsel of choice outweighs the government’s right to freeze assets that were obtained in a lawful way to secure government’s interest in restitution and fines.

Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the plurality but did not adopt what he called the balancing approach. If the right to counsel is a fundamental constitutional guarantee, he said, it cannot be weighed against other interests.

At Stowers & Sarcone we have fought for and won the return of hundreds of thousands of dollars for our clients. We have successfully fought for the return of cars, computers, phones and other property too. The key is having an experienced property seizure and forfeiture lawyer. There are a host of reasons that might form the basis for the return of your money. The Supreme Court decision in Luis is only one of them. We are here to help you fight to get your money  back. Call Stowers & Sarcone now! (515) 224-7446.


When Do Police Have To Read Your Miranda Rights?

When Police Read Miranda Rights

When do police have to read you your Miranda Rights? The police are required to read you your Miranda Rights when you are in custody and subject to interrogation. Your Miranda Rights inform you about your right to remain silent and your right to counsel per the 5th & 6th Amendments. All persons are presumed to know the law, including their rights under the law. As such, police are almost never required to inform an individual of his/her rights. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Miranda v. Arizona that your right to remain silent and your right to counsel are so fundamental to our system of justice, and so necessary to protect from false confession, that law enforcement must remind you of your rights each time you are subject to custodial interrogation. Hence the term “Miranda Rights” or “Miranda Warnings”.

The Supreme Court has never set forth a word for word recitation that must be used to convey your Miranda Rights. Often the precise wording varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, the warnings generally resemble the following:

“You have the right to remain silent when questioned. Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult with an attorney before speaking and you have the right to have an attorney present during questioning now and at any time in the future. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer any questions now, without an attorney present, you still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney. Knowing and understanding your rights as I have explained them to you, are you willing to answer my questions without an attorney present?”

So when must the police read you your Miranda Rights? When you are in police custody and subject to interrogation.


Often custody is associated with arrest. If a person is arrested he/she is always in custody for Miranda purposes. However, not every person in custody is under arrest. Custody is defined in Iowa as circumstances under which a “suspect is deprived of his or her freedom of action in any significant way”. State v. Ortiz, 766 N.W.2d 244, 251 (Iowa 2009). Put another way; whether a subject’s freedom of action was so restrained that a reasonable person in the same position would believe he or she was not free to leave. In evaluating custody a court looks to four factors:

1) the language used to summon the individual

2) the purpose, place, and manner of interrogation

3) The extent to which the Defendant is confronted with evidence of guilt

4) whether the defendant is free to leave the place of questioning

Miranda is REQUIRED to be read before any interrogation if a person is in custody. If it is not read, all testimonial evidence (statements) made by a Defendant can be suppressed (excluded from trial).


Interrogation is much easier to define. An interrogation involves any questions which are designed to elicit an incriminating response. A court views whether or not the questions are designed to elicit an incriminating response from the perspective of the person in custody. Interrogation involves even questions which the police did not intend to elicit an incriminating response, but should have known were reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response.

An incriminating response includes more than just inculpatory statements. An incriminating response refers to any statement that the prosecution seeks to enter at trial.

One thing to remember is that basic biographical questions asked during administrative processes, like booking into a jail, do NOT trigger the need to read your Miranda Rights. Any other time you are in custody and subject to interrogation the police are REQUIRED to read you your Miranda Rights before asking you any questions!

If you are charged with a crime call Stowers & Sarcone, PLC at (515) 224-7446. If it is after hours and an emergency call (515) 650-3979! Protect your rights! Act Now!