Supreme Court Cracks Down on Civil Forfeiture Laws With Latest Ruling

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Posted: Feb 20, 2019 4:10 PM
Supreme Court Cracks Down on Civil Forfeiture Laws With Latest Ruling

The Supreme Court on Wednesday made a decision that will crack down on states and localities' civil asset forfeiture, which permit them to take and keep private property used to commit crimes. 

Under the Eighth Amendment, the federal government is limited in their actions, specifically when it comes to "excessive fines." The Court believes those same limitations apply to the state.

About the Case

This ruling came under the Timbs v. Indiana case. The case was brought about by Tyson Timbs, who sold $225 worth of heroin to undercover police officers. He pleaded guilty to dealing of a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. According to the New York TimesTimbs was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation, and he was ordered to pay $1,200 in fees and fines.

At the time of his arrest, Timbs had a $42,000 Land Rover he bought with money he received from an insurance policy when his father died. The State of Indiana sized the Land Rover, saying it was used to transport heroin. The maximum monetary fine for a drug conviction is $10,000. 

A trial court denied the state's request to seize the Lane Rover because the vehicle was worth more than four times the maximum monetary fine. They felt seizing the SUV would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs’s offense and unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. The Court of Appeals of Indiana agreed but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying the Eighth Amendment only applies to the feds. The Supreme Court eventually concluded that the Eighth Amendment applies to states as well.