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Libretti v. United States

Case Name
Libretti v. United States
516 U.S. 29
Unanimous Decision
Authoring Judge
Sandra Day O'Connor
Judge(s) - Majority
William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer
Judge(s) - Concur
David Souter
Judge(s) - Dissent
John Paul Stevens
U.S. Supreme Court
On Review From
10th Circuit
Decision Year


Defendant was charged with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise in violation of federal law. This included violations of various federal drug, firearms, and money laundering laws. Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise subjects a defendant to forfeiture of property that was used to obtain or obtained through the enterprise. After the trial began and numerous witnesses testified, Defendant entered into a plea agreement with the government pleading guilty to the continuing criminal enterprise charge. Defendant later challenged the forfeiture of his property pursuant to the plea agreement arguing that the judge must make a factual determination for the forfeiture. The Court rejected this claim. The Court first found that Rule 11(f) only applies to plea agreements, not forfeitures. The Court then rejected Defendant’s policy arguments in favor of requiring this finding. The Court rejected the arguments that subjecting forfeiture to Rule 11(f) is necessary to ensure the forfeiture agreement is voluntary and knowing, to prevent prosecutorial overreach, and to preserve third-party rights to the property. The Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals.

Key Quote

“Under the plain language of Rule 11(f), the District Court is not obliged to inquire into the factual basis for a stipulated forfeiture of assets embodied in a plea agreement. And because Libretti agreed to this forfeiture and waived his ‘right to a jury trial,’ he cannot now complain that he did not receive the special jury verdict on forfeitability for which Rule 31(e) provides.” p.51-52