SCOTUS Rules Police Can't Seize Car Used For Trafficking Drugs

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg both wrote and announced the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

Washington, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that seizing a drug dealer's car is an excessive fine, and the 8th Amendment’s protections against excessive fines do apply to the states.

The case was brought to the highest court in the land by Tyson Timbs, a heroin dealer whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized when he was arrested for dealing drugs out of it in Indiana, CNBC reported.

Timbs pleaded guilty to selling heroin to an undercover officer in Indiana and was sentenced to a year of home confinement, five years of probation, and $1,000 in fines and fees.

But the state also kept his Land Rover which was valued at four times the maximum monetary fine allowed by law for his conviction, CNBC reported.

Both a trial court and an Indiana appeals court ruled the seizure was unlawful because it was disproportionate to the offense.

But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed those decisions and said the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines did not apply to the states, according to CNBC.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision for the court. She said protection from excessive fines dates back to the Magna Carta.

Ginsburg said the prohibition on excessive fines had been added to the Bill of Rights as a “constant shield” against fines being used as a source of revenue or a way to "chill the speech of political enemies," NPR reported.

"Forfeiture of the Land Rover, the court determined, would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs's offense," she wrote.

Ginsberg’s decision was written on the 84 year old's second day back at the court after a two-month hiatus following lung cancer surgery, NPR reported. She is the oldest justice on the Supreme Court.

Most of the Bill of Rights’ protections were incorporated to the states decades ago, including other provisions of the 8th Amendment, such as prohibitions on excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment, CNBC reported.

In her decision, Ginsburg wrote that the 8th Amendment’s protection against excessive fines was "fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty."

The decision was a victory for civil rights’ groups who have long claimed that excessive penalties disproportionately hurt the poor and minorities, CNBC reported.

Comments (24)
No. 1-14
THEDUKE
THEDUKE

Lady you are really beginning to get on people's nerves.....Please take whatever is left of your life and enjoy some retirement because at this point you are a PITA. Like I have any sympathy at all for a drug dealer......although she sure does.

Interested bystander
Interested bystander

Well now I think back to all the property seized by law enforcement (sometimes a landlord or elderly relative) that tis ruling might apply to actually. The seizure law does protect property owned by gov't officials from seizure. Although if he was dealing from the vehicle itself then it should be confiscated, sold and proceeds going to state operated rehab.

Copssuck
Copssuck

It was a unanimous decision you tools!

Copssuck
Copssuck

@THEDUKE you are a moron. The entire court agreed with the decision not just her. Learn to read. Oh I forgot they don't teach that skill in the academy.

Paul Kersey Jr.
Paul Kersey Jr.

It will be interesting to see the ripple effect from this. Knowing the courts/cops/municipalities/and feds - they will find work-arounds. The beat goes on.

186
186

Personal experience, Driving on I 10 through a Gulf state. County Mountie sees my out of State plate. Passes me and then pulls in front of me and starts to slow down quickly. Then pulls me over for tailgating. Big bold letters on his car " Drug Interjection Unit " So here we go Do you know why I pulled you over? License, insurance,and Registration time. Can I search your vehicle? How much money do you have on you? Out comes the dog. Peed on my tire but failed to hit. Ok Now I get the " I'm not going to give you a ticket, But watch your distance" Now it's my turn, " Thank you Deputy, but I want the ticket" So I got what I wanted. Next step would be to complain to the Sheriff, but that would be an exercise in futility. So I call my Lawyer (W.E. Cheatum and Howe ) Give him the ticket and video tapes ( Yes my car has front and rear cameras and audio equipment) That Sheriff's Department ended up defending a 1983 complaint.

DaveZ
DaveZ

Last line of story.....“The decision was a victory for civil rights’ groups who have long claimed that excessive penalties disproportionately hurt the poor and minorities, CNBC reported.”

The guy was driving a Land Rover....I guess he was on the poorer end of the rich spectrum?

DarrellB
DarrellB

Sorry everyone, but the UNANIMOUS decision was correct. I too was upset by the "click bait" title, but the decision is sound. In fact, the opinion of the Indiana State Supreme Court drove and forced the SCOTUS decision. How could any state court find that a guaranteed right in the Bill of Rights does NOT equally apply to all states? What the SCOTUS decision does reaffirm is it is unfair to take $40K from someone when the maximum fine was $1000. Officers, keep on seizing...just within reasonable limits!

ForestJohn
ForestJohn

It was only time before the overuse of the asset seizure laws caught up to law enforcement. I've seen a lot of abuses and "over seizures" over the years...

retiredcop
retiredcop

Never mind the seizure. I am appalled at the lenient sentence this heroin dealer received and in Indiana no less which has a reputation for a no nonsense judiciary system.

AusTex
AusTex

Very misleading headline and factually inaccurate article. All SCOTUS did was spell out that the protection against “excessive fines” applies to the states, not just the fed. They completely failed to define “excessive fines.” That will be left up to lower courts to decide (or to SCOTUS when someone appeals another case with more specifics dealing with defining “excessive”).

This doesn’t mean the end of forfeiture. This doesn’t even mean specifically that the forfeiture in this case was excessive...that is for a lower court to decide.

This shouldn’t have any impact on a good number of forfeiture cases. It won’t have any impact on the forfeiture of money or assets that are proven to be the proceeds from illegal activities (read: a $50,000 car purchased by a drug dealer who has no other source of legitimate income).

LE will have to do a better job of articulating that the items are proceeds of illegal enterprise, or how the asset was used in the commission of the crime. Just saying “he drove that car to the corner store to sell $500 worth of dope” may not be enough anymore.

It shouldn’t be about generating revenue for the government...ever. It SHOULD be about depriving criminals of the proceeds of their illegal activities and the tools they use to commit those crimes (cars, guns, etc).

Gap Filler
Gap Filler

"The decision was a victory for civil rights’ groups who have long claimed that excessive penalties disproportionately hurt the poor and minorities, CNBC reported"

But this guy wasn't poor enough to afford the heroin in the first place to be selling it out of this vehicle which was technically his place of business....bull....

Poor and minorities wouldn't be affected if they'd stop committing the damn crimes in the first place! Anyone ever consider that little bit of logic? Duh!!!!

5150
5150

Gee, I wonder how Homeboy got the money to buy that Landrover??

Stanracer
Stanracer

Wow! Ususlly the supreme court makes good decisions. This time, not so much!🤔👎