Welcome back. We’ve been talking about oh-so-prickly subject civil asset forfeiture, and how a recent Supreme Court ruling is set to potentially upset the apple cart when it comes to future cases around the nation. In the previous article we looked at the case of Tyson Timbs from Indiana, who used life insurance proceeds to buy himself a Land Rover, which he later used to sell heroin to an undercover officer. The cops seized his vehicle, despite the fact that it wasn’t bought using drug money and instead had been funded with a life insurance payout after his father died. So what happened next?
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the cops.
Timbs sued the state for his Land Rover, which he believed had been wrongfully seized by the police. Timb’s crime carried a maximum fine of $10,000, while the value of the seized vehicle was $42,000, making the car worth more than four times the crime. The Indiana Court of Appeals barred the forfeiture because it would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs’ offense ( a violation of Eighth Amendment rights), but the Indiana Supreme Court allowed it, claiming that the U.S. Supreme Court has not applied the excessive fines clause to the states.
What exactly are your Eighth Amendment rights?
According to the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the 8th Amendment protects people in very specific ways, namely: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Interestingly, two of those three commands (specifically the two regarding bail, and cruel and unusual punishments, have been applied to state and local governments before now. However this is the first time the Supreme Court has required that the ban on excessive fines be upheld as well.
In the words of the Supreme Court Justices:
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the Indiana Supreme Court, and ruled that Timbs had been a victim of the use of excessive fines. “Observing that Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drug conviction, the trial court denied the State’s request. The vehicle’s forfeiture, the court determined, would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs’s offense, and therefore unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment Excessive Fines Clause.”
The implications for future civil asset forfeiture cases are huge!
As you can imagine, the implications of this ruling are huge! The Supreme is effectively saying that states all over the U.S. are required to uphold constitutional law when enforcing civil asset forfeiture laws. This is a huge victory for the many people fighting to ensure that people’s property rights aren’t violated, and that ‘policing for profit’ becomes a thing of the past. If you believe that your rights have been violated by an officer of the law, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled and effective team of trial lawyers is standing by to help you protect your rights and defend your future.