Supreme Court Delivers BIG Victory Against Civil Asset Forfeiture
Article from Reason by Eric Boehm.
It’s a decision that hands a major victory to critics of civil asset forfeiture, and it opens another avenue to legal challenges against that widely used (and often abused) practice by which states and local governments can seize cars, cash, homes, and pretty much anything else that is suspected of being used to commit a crime.
The case before the Supreme Court, Timbs v. Indiana, involved the seizure of a $42,000 Land Rover SUV from Tyson Timbs, who was arrested in 2015 for selling heroin to undercover police officers. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation. On top of that, the state of Indiana seized his 2012 Land Rover—which he had purchased with money received from his late father’s life insurance payout, not with the proceeds of drug sales—on the ground that it had been used to commit a crime.
Timbs challenged that seizure, arguing that taking his vehicle amounted to an additional fine on top of the sentence he had already received. The Indiana Supreme Court rejected that argument, solely because the U.S. Supreme Court had never explicitly stated that the Eighth Amendment applied to the states.
“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the opinion. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies,” she wrote, or can become sources of revenue disconnected from the criminal justice system.
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: Joe Ravi [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons