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HomeIllinois NewsU.S. Supreme Court Rules Unanimously That States Cannot Impose Excessive Fines

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Unanimously That States Cannot Impose Excessive Fines




The Constitution’s prohibition against excessive fines now applies to the states. John Kramer writes:

In an historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning held that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment protects Americans not just against the federal government, but against states and local authorities too. No matter which state you live in, every level of government must now abide by the federal Constitution’s guarantee that property owners will be safe from excessive fines and forfeitures. “[T]he historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the Court, “is overwhelming.”

Indiana resident Tyson Timbs is at the center of this legal fight. His road to the U.S. Supreme Court began shortly after his father died, when he received more than $70,000 in life-insurance proceeds and bought a new car. For years, Tyson had struggled with drug addiction; a painkiller prescription had escalated to heroin abuse. Soon after buying his new car, Tyson sold four grams of heroin to fund his addiction. The purchasers were undercover officers, and police arrested Tyson. They seized his car too.

Tyson pleaded guilty to one count of drug dealing, which led to house arrest, then probation, and $1,200 in related fees. Most importantly, the arrest was a wake-up call for Tyson. He got his life back on track, holding down a job and taking steps to battle his addiction.

The State of Indiana was more interested in Tyson’s car, a Land Rover worth $40,000.

Within months of Tyson’s arrest, the state filed a “civil forfeiture” lawsuit to take title to the Land Rover. But the trial court ruled against the government. Because taking Tyson’s car would be “grossly disproportional” to his offense—for which Tyson had already been punished—the trial court held that the forfeiture would violate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed.

Then the Indiana Supreme Court stepped in. Breaking with at least 14 other state high courts, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment provides no protection at all against fines and forfeitures imposed by the states. Until the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, the Indiana Supreme Court said, “we will not impose federal obligations on the State that the federal government itself has not mandated.”

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court removed any doubt that the Excessive Fines Clause applies fully to Indiana and every other state.

[John Kramer, “U.S. Supreme Court Rules Unanimously That States Cannot Impose Excessive Fines,” Institute for Justice, February 20]


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  1. Another power grab by SCOTUS, globalist SCOTUS seeks to centralize all power within the federal govt.
    SCOTUS only issues “opinions”, their opinion is not law.
    Blind belief in federal govt authority is the greatest enemy of truth!