Constitutional Battle Ends With Supreme Court Ruling in Land Rover Owner's Favor

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
constitutional battle ends with supreme court ruling in land rover owners favor

You can’t fight city hall, the saying goes, but you apparently can fight the state of Indiana in the U.S. Supreme Court and win. That’s what former addict Tyson Timbs learned today, after the Court returned a unanimous decision that overturned a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court.

It seems the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause does apply to individual states. The fight that began over a seized $42,000 Land Rover led to a victory for those fearing financial ruin from sky-high fees, fines, and asset seizures.

For a backgrounder on the case, read this. Basically, former heroin addict Timbs, while driving a new 2012 Land Rover LR2 purchased with inheritance money, sold smack to some undercover cops, soon finding himself behind bars. While Timbs served his sentenced and paid his fines, the state kept his seized vehicle, despite it being worth more than four times the maximum fine for his crime at the time of purchase.

Both a trial court and appeals court found the seizure to be excessive, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled it wasn’t, claiming the Excessive Fines Clause only applied to action taken by the feds, not state impositions. Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Court incorporates the clause to the states.

The ruling should please the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a brief in support of Timbs. The group, reports CNBC, stated that an “explosion of fines, fees, and forfeitures has buried people under mountains of accumulating debt” and can lead to far-ranging ramifications, including “wage garnishment, loss of employment and housing, poor credit ratings, driver’s license suspension, incarceration, prohibitions on the right to vote, and even family separation.”

Civil asset forfeiture can take cash, cars, and homes out of the hands of owners following the laying of a charge, and getting those assets back is often a pipe dream. Seized assets and lofty fines can, and have, become a sizeable revenue source for cities. As such, today’s ruling is a both threat to municipal coffers and a key piece of legal ammo handed to those who feel they’ve been wronged.

The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, can be read here.

“The Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause,” she wrote, adding there was “no daylight between the federal and state conduct it


prohibits or requires.”

“Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties,” Ginsburg wrote. “They can be used, e.g., to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. They can also be employed, not in service of penal purposes, but as a source of revenue.”

[Image: Jaguar Land Rover]

Comments
Join the conversation
4 of 33 comments
  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
Next