• Supreme Court Opinion in Southern Union Changes Burden of Proof for Imposition of Criminal Fines
  • June 26, 2012
  • Law Firm: Alston Bird LLP - Atlanta Office
  • On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Southern Union Co. v. United States, 567 U.S. (2012), holding that the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial requires juries — not judges — to decide the facts warranting a fine that exceeds a statutory maximum of any crime for which a defendant is convicted. This case has significant implications for corporations charged with white collar crimes, as many such crimes include statutory provisions similar to the one at issue in Southern Union that allowed for fines based “per day of violation.” The holding will also implicate fines imposed under the Alternative Fines Act (AFA), which allows fines above the statutory maximum in amounts equal to twice the economic gain or loss of the offense of conviction. 18 U.S.C. § 3571(d). Under either of these provisions, a corporation can be subject to millions — if not billions — of dollars in fines, even though the statute under which it was convicted may be capped at $1 million or less.