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The Supreme Court is struggling over whether the government can freeze the financial assets of people accused of crimes even if the money is not directly tied to criminal activity and is needed for defense.

Several justices on Tuesday appeared sympathetic to arguments that federal prosecutors violated the constitutional rights of a Miami woman accused of Medicare fraud when they put a hold on $45 million in assets that included money unrelated to the charges.

A lawyer representing Sila Luis says the forfeiture deprives her of the right to hire a defense attorney of her choice.

But the court also seemed troubled that a defendant could simply spend the money tied to a crime and leave the government with nothing to recover if there is a conviction.

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