By on February 20, 2019

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]

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33 Comments on “Constitutional Battle Ends With Supreme Court Ruling in Land Rover Owner’s Favor...”


  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Given the offense, it’s evident he’s not too bright to start with. But wasn’t buying a Land Rover already punishment enough?

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      His offense? He became addicted to a drug his doctor prescribed for him. What an idiot….

      (well ok, perhaps he should have done more research before choosing a dealer)

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Yes, and the guy got clean, served his time and (from the sounds of it) fixed his life. I’m absolutely in favor of this ruling. The guy screwed up, paid for it, yet was still being punished beyond the scope of the law. What does that say to others who make similar mistakes? “Okay, do everything right from here on out, and you’re still f’ed for no reason.”

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Good stuff.

  • avatar
    vvk

    Surprisingly, the court opinion is quite interesting to read!

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Unanimous too!

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Given that SCOTUS only takes the cases it agrees to take they must have reviewed this one and almost in unison went: “Seriously Indiana? Seriously?”

  • avatar
    DedBull

    While this case overall has broad ranging implications over the practice of civil forfeiture, I now wonder about things directly applicable to this case. I doubt it will ever be covered.

    1. Did Mr. Timbs retain his Land Rover as this case wound it’s way through the courts?

    2. Was it impounded and now worthless after sitting for 7 years? Is the state liable for damages due to storage?

    3. Was it sold long ago and the state is now liable for it’s value at time of seizure regardless of sale price?

    4.How much did litigating this case cost the State, and are they held responsible for opposing council fees?

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      To answer #4 – yes, the taxpayers of the state of Indiana had to foot the bill for arguing this case before the courts. I shudder every time some nitwit legislator in my home state of OK puts forth a bill that I know will get vacated by the courts – it seems my taxes go up every time it happens.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Going to OKC in March to see if we can steal some teachers for NM. Every time a legislature decides to keep pi$$ing on that profession it gives us a place to recruit from.

        • 0 avatar
          psychoboy

          Oklahoma teachers got a $6000/yr raise in 2018 which puts the minimum wage in NM and OK almost dead even for the 2018-2019 school year. OK is currently working on another $1200/yr going forward.

          Not to say that you can’t recruit from the OKC metro with the promise of money, but be aware that a wide swath of the teachers who feel put upon by the state legislature cannot really explain how. Many of the ones I’ve spoken with can’t even explain how their own paychecks work. OKC’s problems are district issues, not state issues. Hopefully, the newest superintendent is able to fix some of the systemic issues, but not without ruffling a few entrenched feathers. OKC is about to shut down a dozen smaller elementary schools and consolidate them into the larger ones, so there’s going to be an excess of non-teaching site-level staff that’ll be looking for a new gig.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I’m glad the Supreme Court is putting the brakes on some of this “Police State” stuff. It’s bad enough that the Police have basically turned in to a paramilitary organization with the surplus vehicles and equipment they acquire from the military.

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      I strongly second your sentiments. Police seizures have become insane. I’ve read many stories about people having to carry large amounts of cash due to the nature of business – the story of a tree farm owner makes for great reading. Typically these seizures happen in small towns where all parties – the police, courts and the D.A.’s are in cahoots with each other. I’m glad our right-leaning SCOTUS had the balls to do the right thing this time…

  • avatar
    EGSE

    How all-encompassing is this ruling? I’m hoping it squashes warrantless civil asset seizures of people that aren’t accused of any illegal activity. The 14th Amendment states that you are innocent until proven guilty; grabbing money that someone has on their person without due process is a blatant trampling of that principle. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions reinstituted that abuse and I have little expectation the new AG will reverse it.

    Perhaps someone like Speedlaw can give us an informed opinion on this.

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      You might be too young to remember, but this stuff was going on long before Sessions. And I’m no fan of anybody in DC so that’s not a partisan statement.

      You all expect “government” to “give” you healthcare, education, jobs, and retirement, not to mention protection from drug dealers and idiot doctors who dole out addictive substances because their clients request it. Why would you then not expect a confiscatory police state?

      I’m no constitutional scholar, but confiscation without conviction by jury surely seems wrong and bad. But it’s here and you asked for it so you got it. Quit yer bitchin’.

      • 0 avatar
        EGSE

        You sure got it wrong….I’m 65 and am well-aware it was going on during Bush 43. Eric Holder then stopped it. Sessions reinstituted it. Do you understand what “REinstituted” means? Look it up….I’ll wait.

        And you know nothing about me. I never expected government to “give me” anything. I paid for my own education by working during the day and going to school at night to become an engineer. When I was working as a direct my healthcare came through the company; as an independent consultant I bought my own health insurance with no subsidies. I found my work and negotiated with my clients, no government involved except the taxes I paid. I invested for my retirement which I am now enjoying and am not collecting SS as of now. I never filed for unemployment when I was between jobs. And I started a 501c3 so I can give some of my investment gains as scholarships to students studying in the STEM fields.

        Can you say the same? But there’s one thing we agree on….civil asset seizures are wrong.

        • 0 avatar
          retrocrank

          With some detail differences, yes I can. Never not had a regular paying job since 4th grade when I got a paper route (early 60s, kids were allowed to be out of a caring adults direct supervision and allowed to work. ).

          We’re of the same generation.

          You know my point. “We” have brought the police state on ourselves. I didn’t personally want it, and it looks like you personally didn’t. Doesn’t matter if you and like it or not, nor if we agree or not. Fact is it’s here and the SCOTUS decision is I predict inconsistent with the future. I do disagree that a federal lackey – sessions in this instance- is responsible. Those who preach rights that assess a duty of action on others have unknowingly (perhaps) created the needed police enforcement state.

        • 0 avatar
          jberger

          This case was prosecuted under Obama’s White House, so how did Session “re-institute” it?
          Those damn Republicans and their time travel devices. . .

          • 0 avatar
            EGSE

            JBS reinstituted *civil asset forfeiture* after Eric Holder suspended it during the previous admin.

            Obama had nothing to do with the prosecution or seizure; until the SCOTUS action it never got above the state level. This was an Indiana [email protected] as they thought they were exempt from the Constitutional protections afforded to citizens.

            I am a Republican and ask of you a favor…..if you find my time travel device please send it to me as I’ve never seen such a thing.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        Wait, what? Because some people want a public healthcare option and think the government is the best actor to combat drug deaths, how does it follow that the government will start stealing from people in direct contravention of Constitutional mandate? I’m open to learning something, so I’m really asking: would you explain that, please?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Expect to see traffic cams in Indiana, they have to make up the shortfall some how.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      -smirking- Bring Pence back.

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Ah yes, Mr. Pence – the moron who support a supported a “Religious Freedom” law that basically made being gay in Indiana a crime and made discrimination against them perfectly legal. When big business and all of the major sporting teams threatened to pull out of Indiana, he suddenly lost his religion…

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Yeah I’ve never understood some of that logic…

          Evangelicals are also capitalists right?

          Isn’t an LGBT person’s money the same color as everyone else’s?

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            It’s the same basic hypocrisy that permeates the entire alt right mindset .

            Makes things hard or those of us who truly believe in Conservatism IE : most of America .

            -Nate

  • avatar
    4drSedan

    Man, if the comments at TTAC keep focusing on politics as they have been (not just in this piece)…I’m leaving.

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      What did you expect…this article is about a SCOTUS ruling and has only the slightest connection to cars. How the Constitution is interpreted is inextricably wrapped up in politics. With the acrimony in politics today it was a given it’d go down the rabbit hole.

      And yes it sucks…..

  • avatar
    brn

    I’ve been working with law enforcement for many years. The current political climate is far to negative toward the great work that is done in law enforcement.

    I’m also not a fool. There are things I don’t like. This is one of them. I’m in favor of this ruling.

  • avatar
    Derrick Gunter

    Great. For a look at some of the crap done under civil forfeiture, go here:

    https://www.greenvilleonline.com/news/taken/

    If you run out of articles, you can also go here:

    https://www.independentmail.com/story/news/taken/2019/01/27/guide-taken-investigative-series-greenville-news-journalism/2638405002/

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I love how left and right are in total agreement on this — yet still somehow manage to bash each other in the comments here. Jiminy cricket.

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      Happy Spin:

      This mutual agreement despite respective tribal affiliation reveals a fundamental American decency and humanity.

      My Best Guess:

      As above but with the proviso that our American character has been shaped by an historically unique bubble of dumb-luck resource gifting combined with Christian morality, both of which are dissolving in the liquid manure mix of 3rd-World impingement, globalized corporate greed, and racial vengeance.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      If the left and right would listen a little bit, they’d find they’re not very far apart.


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