SCOTUS case on excessive asset forfeitures.
Timbs v. Indiana, 2019 SCOTUS (February). Episode 594 (Duration 24:32)
The Eighth Amendment
Timbs v. Indiana Case Brief
|Issue: Does the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines clause extend to cover the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause?|
|Holding: Eighth Amendment ban on excessive fines and forfeitures extends to the states.|
|Facts: Indiana seized defendant’s truck valued at $42,000 after he was convicted of a drug charge involving the truck. Defendant’s fines in the case were only $1,203.|
|Key Precedent: Austin v. United States, 509 U. S. 602 (1993) held that civil in rem forfeitures fall within the Clause’s protection when they are at least partially punitive.|
|Analysis: Regardless of whether application of the Excessive Fines Clause to civil in rem forfeitures is itself fundamental or deeply rooted, the Eighth Amendment ban on excessive fines and forfeitures extends to the states. For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Indiana Supreme Court is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.|
|Practical Result: The case was sent back to Indiana state court to determine if forfeiture of the truck was excessive.|
Links & Resources
- Illinois Crime Related Forfeiture of Vehicles
- Illinois Crime Related Forfeiture of Property
- Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act
- Eight Amendment of The United States Constitution
- Illinois Innocent Owner Hearing
- Article 36 Eight Amendment Statement on Proportionality
The question presented: Is the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause an “incorporated” protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause?
Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft.
The trial court sentenced him to one year of home detention and five years of probation, which included a court-supervised addiction-treatment program. The sentence also required Timbs to pay fees and costs totaling $1,203. At the time of Timbs’s arrest, the police seized his vehicle, a Land Rover SUV Timbs had purchased for about $42,000.
Timbs paid for the vehicle with money he received from an insurance policy when his father died. Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for $42,000, more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drug conviction.
The Bill of Rights
“The constitutional Amendments adopted in the aftermath of the Civil War,” however, “fundamentally altered our country’s federal system.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 754.
With only “a handful” of exceptions, this Court has held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates the protections contained in the Bill of Rights, rendering them applicable to the States. Id., at 764–765.
A Bill of Rights protection is incorporated, we have explained, if it is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”
Part Of Our History
For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties. Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies, as the Stuarts’ critics learned several centuries ago.
Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed “in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence,” for “fines are a source of revenue,” while other forms of punishment “cost a State money.” In short, the historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming.
Protection against excessive punitive economic sanctions secured by the Clause is, to repeat, both “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” McDonald, 561 U. S., at 767.
This Includes Asset Forfeitures
In Austin v. United States, 509 U. S. 602 (1993), however, this Court held that civil in rem forfeitures fall within the Clause’s protection when they are at least partially punitive. We thus decline the State’s invitation to reconsider our unanimous judgment in Austin that civil in rem forfeitures are fines for purposes of the Eighth Amendment when they are at least partially punitive.
As a fallback, Indiana argues that the Excessive Fines Clause cannot be incorporated if it applies to civil in rem forfeitures. We disagree.
Broad Rights Are Protected
In considering whether the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates a protection contained in the Bill of Rights, we ask whether the right guaranteed—not each and every particular application of that right—is fundamental or deeply rooted. Indiana’s suggestion to the contrary is inconsistent with the approach we have taken in cases concerning novel applications of rights already deemed incorporated.
Look At These Recent SCOTUS Cases
For example, in Packingham v. North Carolina, 582 U. S. ___ (2017), we held that a North Carolina statute prohibiting registered sex offenders from accessing certain commonplace social media websites violated the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. In reaching this conclusion, we noted that the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause was “applicable to the States under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. We did not, however, inquire whether the Free Speech Clause’s application specifically to social media websites was fundamental or deeply rooted.
See also, e.g., Riley v. California, 573 U. S. 373 (2014) (holding, without separately considering incorporation, that States’ warrantless search of digital information stored on cell phones ordinarily violates the Fourth Amendment).
Like the Eighth Amendment’s proscriptions of “cruel and unusual punishment” and “excessive bail,” the protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority. This safeguard, we hold, is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” with “dee[p] root[s] in [our] history and tradition.” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 767 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis deleted). The Excessive Fines Clause is therefore incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Fourteenth Amendment, we hold, incorporates this protection..
Regardless of whether application of the Excessive Fines Clause to civil in rem forfeitures is itself fundamental or deeply rooted, our conclusion that the Clause is incorporated remains unchanged. * * * For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Indiana Supreme Court is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
Additionally…Attorney Anthony Cameron Discuses Timbs v. IndianaSubscribe: Apple | Google | Spotify | Android | RSS | Direct Download
In This Episode…
“Often when the defense wins one, you know, we get excited and we want to apply it to everything.” — Anthony Cameron.
About Anthony Cameron
Anthony Cameron is a lawyer in Quincy, Illinois. Anthony was Adams County state’s attorney from 1980 to 1984. Now, his practice does its fare share of criminal defense.
However, Anthony does not limit his practice to only criminal justice cases.
Any dilemma involving conflict with a government agency is in his wheelhouse.
“Can’t Miss” Moments:
✓ What does Timbs v. Indiana have to say about Illinois DUI vehicle forfeiture? Do innocent owners now have a stronger claim? (Go to 8:41)
✓ Illinois already had a built in Eight Amendment protection clause into its Article 36 Forfeiture statute. To their credit they actually mention the Eight Amendment, but… (Go to 9:41)
✓ Here’s a solid example of how Timbs v. Indiana could effect the outcome of a current Illinois based asset forfeiture. (Go to 10:54)
✓ Here’s something you haven’t thought about…How does Timbs effect the forfeiture of guns? What if the gun is super expensive? What if you haven’t been convicted of a crime? (Go to 12:28)
✓ It’s not just Article 36 or Drug forfeiture cases you have to worry about. There are these little bear traps all up and down the Illinois code. You have to look out for these as well. (Go to 14:05)
✓ Consider your average case where guy gets arrested and he has $55,000 in cash in small bills in his trunk. Say there is trace amounts of cocaine all over the bills. Now what? (Go to 15:17)
✓ I’d be really careful with making a Timbs objection with this kind of case. (Go to 16:10)
✓ It’s an extraction whether you call it a fine, a forfeiture, or a hamburger – it doesn’t matter. The state is stepping in and taking something from you. (Go to 20:15)