Within the statey von stateface parameters here in America, the existence of civil asset forfeiture is one of the most egregious examples of the denial of basic civil liberties. So long as this practice continues to be legitimized by the judicial branch of this particular coercive enterprise, the claim that this nation is a republic hemmed in by the Rule of Law is largely a myth.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is the practice of seizing wealth and property for individuals who are merely suspected of engaging in criminal activity. This is, in essence, a fine that the victim of police pirating is forced to ‘pay’ before any due process has ever occurred. Matt Ford, writing in the New Republic, makes the argument from within the statey von stateface parameter that it’s well past time the Supreme Court rules Civil Asset Forfeiture.
|Will the Supreme Court Rein in Civil Forfeiture?|
Stories about civil forfeiture injustices are unfortunately common. What sets Timbs’s case apart is his legal argument: that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines should shield his property from confiscation at the state level. If the Supreme Court takes up the case and agrees, the justices could impose some much-needed barriers on state and local governments’ voracious appetites for fees, fines, and forfeitures.
Timbs’s personal story is a familiar one amid America’s opioid epidemic. He was prescribed hydrocodone to alleviate the pain from a back injury caused at work. But after the pills ran out, his lawyers said in a petition to the Supreme Court in January, did Timbs pursue a more dangerous high: heroin.
For a time, Timbs conquered his addiction. But things fell apart again after his father died. A life-insurance policy left Timbs with roughly $73,000, of which he spent just over $41,000 to buy a Land Rover LR2. “With a new Land Rover and more than $31,000 left to spend, [he] began driving the vehicle to Richmond, Indiana, and Ohio—sometimes on a daily basis—to buy heroin for his personal use,” his lawyers told the court.
Undercover officers solicited from Timbs, buying just under four grams of heroin for less than $400. He was arrested and charged with dealing a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. Timbs pleaded guilty and received a six-year sentence to be served outside prison walls. The state also tried to seize his Land Rover, kicking off the legal battle that ultimately brought him to the Supreme Court.
The trial court refused to authorize the seizure. Indiana law only allowed a $10,000 fine for Timbs’s sentence, and the court concluded that seizing a vehicle worth four times as much as that threshold would be “grossly disproportionate” relative to Timbs’s crime. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the decision after their own review of the circumstances. But the Indiana Supreme Court intervened and approved the seizure……
Civil-asset forfeiture, though still common, has come under increasing scrutiny across the political spectrum. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s push last year to revive the practice at the federal level drew harsh rebukes from the ACLU and congressional Republicans alike. Justice Clarence Thomas set off a signal flare of sorts last April suggesting he had doubts about the practice’s constitutionality.
The Indiana case revolves around different legal questions that the ones Thomas was asking last year, but the underlying injustices are the same. Taking up the issue would give the justices a chance to set new limits on excessive fines and forfeitures for cash-hungry counties and cities. For Timbs and thousands of other Americans, that intervention would be a welcome relief.