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Civil Forfeiture Heads To The Supreme Court.

In 2013, Tyson Timbs was arrested and later convicted of selling a small amount of drugs for $225 to an undercover police officer. At the time, Timbs was addicted to opiods which is never a good thing. Timbs’ crime carried a maximum penalty of $10,000 and the trial court sentenced Timbs to get help with his addiction, one year in home detention, and five years probation.

After his conviction, the State of Indiana sought to seize Timbs’ brand new Land Rover LR2, a vehicle worth around $40,000. Timbs had purchased the vehicle with the proceeds of his father’s life insurance policy and it was Timbs only vehicle.

Stop and think about that for a moment. For a crime that carried a maximum penalty of $10,000, the State of Indiana wanted to seize a vehicle worth $40,000 or four times the amount of the maximum fine.

Nice work if you can get it.

The trial court rejected the seizure on the basis of the Eight Amendment to the US Constitution which reads:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

This is a no brainer. There is no way that the State can justify the seizure of the vehicle and be within the Constitution. It makes absolutely no sense.

Unless you are the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that as the Supreme Court have never ruled on whether the Eight Amendment applied to residents of all states (under the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment) Indiana could take the vehicle.

We didn’t realize that the Supreme Court had to rule on what is clearly stated in the Constitution. That is essentially what the Indiana Supreme Court was saying.

The Institute for Justice took on Timbs’ case and appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

(And the crowds rejoiced.)

It’s not just the financial burden that these civil forfeitures put on people, it is also the burden on their lives.

“Without my car, it is incredibly difficult to do all the things the government wants me to do to stay clean, like visit my probation officer, go to AA, and keep my job,” explained Tyson. “Right now, I’m borrowing my aunt’s car to go to work so we can pay the bills, and she has to take a bus back and forth to her kidney dialysis appointments. You need a car to do all of these things.”

Tyson continued, “Fighting to stay clean is hard enough. I pleaded guilty to my crime. I served one year of house arrest and paid $1,200 in court fees. I’ve served out my punishment, but now the government is going beyond seeking justice. It wants to punish me out of proportion to the crime I committed. I just want to get my vehicle back and keep my life on track.”

We also want to note that it is not cheap to take a case to the State Supreme Court much less the US Supreme Court. We are talking at least a million dollars if not more. It makes us wonder who the government is working for in cases like this. While we understand the idea of a precedent, is it really worth the State of Indiana spending millions over a $40,000 vehicle?

Obviously not, but that goes to show that the State isn’t really worried about this case, but rather keeping the revenue stream of civil forfeiture flowing into their coffers, even at the expense of using taxpayer funds to do it. The Institute for Justice has a report that is well worth reading called “Policing for Profit,” which deals with the insidious nature of civil forfeiture at the state and federal levels.

Our hope is that the Supreme Court rules in favor of Timbs and strikes down the overly burdensome and unConstitutional acts of States in seizing property of citizens.



4 Responses to “Civil Forfeiture Heads To The Supreme Court.”

  1. Lee says:

    And Indiana isn’t one of the worst states for civil asset forfeiture…

    Look where Indiana is on this spectrum:
    http://ij.org/report/policing-for-profit/grading-state-federal-civil-forfeiture-laws/

    Scroll down to Table 1. Indiana gets a B+.
    The vast majority of starts fall in the D range. Why is Indiana bothering?

    Which makes me wonder if some of the other states that want to keep it aren’t helping Indiana foot the bill.

  2. Lee says:

    More thoughts on civil asset forfeiture:

    One there one hand, it gets weilded like an enormous club, to further punish people who MAY OR MAY NOT be guilty, of something.

    On the other hand.

    It frosts my buns that someone I know got convicted of Medicaid fraud to the tune of $5MM, was allowed to surrender himself much, much later to serve his time in prison — so his kid could graduate and take over the practice, served very little time in prison…. And now owns a 35 foot beneteau. I find it hard to believe he made any sort of financial restitution on that money and came out that well.

    He’s is one of the ones that deserve to have is civil assets forfeited.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Lee,

      We are at the same point that you are. (At least we think so.)

      There is a difference between surrendering something that is gained by illegal activities and something that is seized without cause or even a hearing prior to any conviction or trial of the alleged criminal.

      As you have at least glanced through the Institute for Justice’s report “Policing for Profit,” the odd thing is that once seized, the previous owner must sue the state, incurring costs to get back their own property which never should have been taken in the first place. What is even odder it the case names are things like “2017 Range Rover v. State of Illinois” as if the inanimate object can show up in court and plead their case.

      It needs to stop.

      Thanks again for your comment and insight.

      A. Afterwit.

  3. Lee says:

    We do pretty much agree. There are insane stories about victims of civil assets forfeiture.

    Whatever happened to the quality of mercy is not strained…?

    Oh, wait! Facepalm! No one reads that old dead white guy, William Shakespeare any more…

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