Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

UNITED STATES v. RAMOS

December 26, 1985

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA against JOSE RAMOS, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: KRAM

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND O R D E R

SHIRLEY WOHL KRAM, U.S.D.J.

 Defendant Jose Ramos was convicted after a bench trial of violating 21 U.S.C. § 841 (a)(1) and assessed $50 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3013. Defendant, an indigent, filed a motion challenging the constitutionality of the assessment and the Court stayed imposition of the assessment pending disposition of the motion.

 The defendant's challenge to the statute is twofold. First, he claims that since he cannot pay the assessment immediately interest will accrue on it. Ramos alleges that this augmentation of the assessment, resulting only from his indigency, would Ramos alleges, violate his constitutional rights. *fn1" Second, Ramos claims that Section 3013 was introduced in the Senate and is a revenue provision. Since the bill did not orginate in the House of Representatives, Ramos alleges it was thus passed in violation of Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution of the United States.

 Initially, the United States contends that Ramos does not have standing to challenge the imposition of the assessment. It argues that since the government has not yet attempted to collect the assessment, Ramos has not suffered an injury.

 To have standing to litigate in federal court, a party must allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 3325, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 ; reh. den., 468 U.S. 1250, 105 S. Ct. 51, 52,82 L. Ed. 2d 942 (1984). The only issue government raises is whether Ramos has suffered an injury in fact.

 The government points to two cases in support of its argument. First, in United States v. Brown, 744 F.2d 905 (2d Cir.); cert. den., 469 U.S. 1089, 105 S. Ct. 599, 83 L. Ed. 2d 708 (1984), the defendant was ordered to pay restitution to his victims pursuant to the Victim and Witness Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3579 and 3580. The defendant, alleging that he was indigent and could not pay, claimed the statute was unconstitutional as applied to him. The court ruled that "[c]onstitutional objections would be encountered only if the restitution order were enforced at a time when defendant was unable . . . to comply." Brown, 744 F.2d at 911. Thus, Brown was not injured when the restitution order was imposed, but would be only if it were enforced. Since neither the government nor the victim had attempted to enforce the order, he had no standing to challenge it.

 Brown is distinguishable from the instant case. The statute in Brown gave the government and the crime victim discretion to collect the restitution. The statute reads, "An order of restitution may be enforced by the United States or a victim . . . in the same manner as a judgment in a civil action." 18 U.S.C. § 3579(h) (emphasis added). The government is required, however, to collect the assessment under 18 U.S.C. § 3013(b). That statute reads, "Such amount so assessed shall be collected in the manner that fines are collected in criminal cases." Id. (emphasis added). A federal district court is also required to impose the assessment on any person convicted of a felony. 18 U.S.C. 3013(a).

 The government also relies on United States v. Hutchings, 757 F.2d 11 (2d Cir.); cert. den., 472 U.S. 1031, 105 S. Ct. 3511, 87 L. Ed. 2d 640 (1985). There the trial judge imposed the costs of the prosecution of a case on an indigent defendant. The defendant challenged the imposition of the costs as improper because of his indigency. The Second Circuit held that a defendant may assert a constitutional objection to imposition of costs on the ground of indigency only if the government seeks to enforce the trial Court's order at a time when the defendant is unable to pay. Id. at 14-15.

 As with a restitution order, however, collection of costs is also discretionary. Rule 11 of the Civil Rules for the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York provides the guidelines for the collection of costs. Id. at 15, n.4; see 20 U.S.C. §§ 1920-21. If the party who recovered costs wishes to collect them, it must file a request to tax costs with the clerk of the court within thirty days of the final judgment or the disposition of the appeal. Failure to file for costs within thirty days constitutes a waiver of costs. If the prevailing party does seek costs, the adversary may object to particular items or amounts. If the clerk awards the costs, the court may modify the order. F.R. Civ. P. 54(d).

 There is no room for conjecture that the assessment will not be enforced. The defendant is obliged to pay as soon as the

 court orders it. The injuries in Brown and Hutchings, on the other hand, were "abstract . . . conjectural . . . [and] hypothetical." Id. The injuries were only speculative, and dependent on the future exercise of discretion. For purposes of standing analysis, the mandatory assessment is a "distinct and palpable" injury. Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 104 S. Ct. 3315, 3325, 82 L. Ed. 2d 556 (1984).

 Turning to the merits, the defendant's first challenge to the assessment is as follows. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3013(b), the assessment is to be collected in the manner fines are collected in criminal cases. This procedure is described in 18 U.S.C. § 3565. Section 3565(b)(2) requires that interest of 1.5% per month is to be paid on a fine due in installments, and (c)(1) states interest at the same rate is to be paid on fines that are past due. Since Ramos is not presently able to pay the assessment due to his indigency and since the assessment is mandatory, he claims that the accrual of interest will increase his penalty soley because of his indigency. This would violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 103 S. Ct. 2064, 2068-69, 76 L. Ed. 2d 221 (1983).

 The Court need not consider this constitutional issue, however, as an examination of the plain language of the assessment and collection statutes indicates that the interest accrual provisions do not apply to unpaid assessments. Section 3013(b) specifies that the assessment shall be collected in the manner that fines are collected in criminal cases. Section 3565 is entitled "Collection and Payment of Fines and Penalties". Only Section 3565(a) deals with collection of fines. It states that fines may be collected in the same manner as judgments in civil cases. This includes execution by attachment, garnishment, or levy. Sections 3565(b)-(h), however, specifically deal with payment, not collection of fines. They establish the procedure for payment of fines and penalties. These sections require the accrual of interest on unpaid amounts, the defendant to pay the Attorney General or the Clerk of the Court, organizations to pay fines through individuals ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.