When the government becomes the criminal……
Let’s hear it for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, protecting the little guy.
In case you didn’t know, civil forfeiture laws have been implicated in police depts reselling all sorts of items, and then wasting the money on parties, and all sorts of nonsense purchases. It’s nothing but govt gone wild.
Police seized Timbs’ $40,000 Land Rover when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin. The Institute for Justice, which represents Timbs, argued that under Indiana law, the maximum fine such an offense is $10,000, CBS affiliate WTTV reported.
Reading a summary of her opinion in the courtroom, Ginsburg noted that governments employ fines “out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence” because fines are a source of revenue. The 85-year-old justice missed arguments last month following lung cancer surgery, but on Tuesday.
Timbs pleaded guilty, but faced no prison time. The biggest loss was the Land Rover he bought with some of the life insurance money he received after his father died.
Timbs still has to win one more round in court before he gets his vehicle back, but that seems to be a formality. A judge ruled that taking the car was disproportionate to the severity of the crime, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000. But Indiana’s top court said the justices had never ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines – like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights – applies to states as well as the federal government.
The case drew interest from liberal groups concerned about police abuses and conservative organizations opposed to excessive regulation. Timbs was represented by the libertarian public interest law firm Institute for Justice.
Law enforcement authorities have dramatically increased their use of civil forfeiture in recent decades. When law enforcement seizes the property of people accused of crimes, the proceeds from its sale often go directly to the agency that took it, Institute for Justice lawyer Wesley Hottot said in his written arguments in support of Timbs.
“This case is about more than just a truck,” Hottot WTTV. “This case is about whether 330 million Americans coast to coast enjoy the protections of the Bill of Rights”
The case is Timbs v. Indiana, 17-1091.
You can read the opinion here: