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Timbs v. Indiana

Supreme Court of the United States

November 28, 2018, Argued; February 20, 2019, Decided

No. 17-1091.

Opinion

Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

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. [***5] 

The State engaged a private law firm to bring a civil suit for forfeiture of Timbs’s Land Rover, charging that the vehicle had been used to transport heroin. After Timbs’s guilty plea in the criminal case, the trial court held a hearing on the forfeiture demand. Although finding that Timbs’s vehicle had been used to facilitate violation of a criminal statute, the court denied the requested forfeiture, observing that 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. Forfeiture of the Land Rover, the court determined, would be grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Timbs’s offense, hence unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. The Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed that determination, but the Indiana Supreme Court reversed. 84 N. E. 3d 1179 (2017). The Indiana Supreme Court did not decide whether the forfeiture would be excessive. Instead, it held that the Excessive Fines Clause constrains only federal action and is inapplicable to state impositions. We granted certiorari. 585 U. S. __, 138 S. Ct. 2650, 201 L. Ed. 2d 1049(2018).

The question presented: Is the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause an “incorporated” protection  [**16]  applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause? Like the Eighth Amendment’s proscriptions of “cruel and unusual punishment” and “[e]xcessive bail,” [***6]  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  [*687]  [our] history and tradition.” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 767, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 177 L. Ed. 2d 894 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis deleted). The Excessive Fines Clause is therefore incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

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139 S. Ct. 682 *; 203 L. Ed. 2d 11 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 1350 ***; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 642; 2019 WL 691578

TYSON TIMBS, Petitioner v. INDIANA

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Subsequent History: Remanded by State v. Timbs, 2019 Ind. LEXIS 835 (Ind., Oct. 28, 2019)

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA

State v. Timbs, 2017 Ind. LEXIS 833, 84 N.E.3d 1179 (Ind., Nov. 2, 2017)

Disposition: Vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

excessive fines, fines, rights, bill of rights, forfeitures, Fourteenth Amendment, amercements, Eighth Amendment, Magna, incorporates, Carta, rooted, Immunities, Privileges, inflicted, ratified, rem, state constitution, fundamental rights, Charter, cruel, bail, declaration of rights, unusual punishment, constitutions, provisions, saving, fault, marks

Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Cruel & Unusual Punishment, Criminal Law & Procedure, Sentencing, Fines, Excessive Fines, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, State Application, Forfeitures