WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court said yesterday that a state cannot impose a tax to punish or deter criminal behavior if the state already has imposed a criminal penalty for the same conduct.

In a 5-to-4 ruling against the state of Montana, the high court held that a tax imposed on Richard M. Kurth and his relatives for possession of illegal drugs violated the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution, which provides that "no person shall ... be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

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