By preventing state and local law enforcement agencies from confiscating property valued out of proportion with the potential penalties for suspected crimes, however, this new ruling should drastically scale back most existing forfeiture practices.

Civil asset forfeiture has long been used to take property from people who haven’t even been charged with a crime, much less convicted, because officials suspect that property could potentially have been used in connection with criminal activity.

“Thanks to the efforts of attorneys from the Institute for Justice, people all over the country will be safer from civil asset forfeiture.” -@nsarwark@twitter.com

“Today, a unanimous Supreme Court struck a blow against the organized system of highway robbery that state governments have used to take the life savings of people over minor drug offenses,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair @nsarwark@twitter.com after the verdict.

This new SOCTUS decision has established precedent that definitively applies the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines to state and local governments.

Timbs prevailed again at the Indiana Appellate Court, but lost at the Indiana SC, which ruled that the Eighth Amendment had not been incorporated to the states.

The court ruled that the value of the Land Rover was more than four times his potential maximum penalty of $10,000 and 30 times the fine he paid, thus violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition against excessive fines.

With pro bono representation from the @inst4justice@twitter.com, a libertarian public-interest law firm, Timbs sued in Grant County Superior Court and won.

After undercover officers arrested him, he pled guilty & was sentenced to a year of house arrest, 5 years of probation, and $1200 in fines, which he paid. Indiana officials also confiscated his Land Rover using asset forfeiture laws b/c the truck had been used to transport drugs.

Tyson Timbs, a recovering drug addict, received cash from his father’s life insurance policy in 2012 and used about $42,000 to purchase a Land Rover. He also slipped back into drug use, financing his habit by selling small amounts of heroin to others.

“Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. … Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence."

“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Ginsburg wrote (continues).

On her second day back on the bench after undergoing cancer surgery, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg announced the Timbs v. Indiana decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Feb. 20 that civil asset forfeiture as widely practiced by state and local governments can violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its prohibition against excessive fines.

[LPHQ PRESS RELEASE]

Supreme Court rules against highway robbery through asset forfeiture.

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