Supreme Court Says 8th Amendment Applies to States

Should police be able to seize this $42,000 car for a crime with a maximum fine of $10,000?Jaguar Land Rover

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

This is excellent news:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property….The court ruled in favor of Tyson Timbs of Marion, Ind., who had his $42,000 Land Rover seized after he was arrested for selling a couple hundred dollars’ worth of heroin.

The maximum fine for Timbs’ offense was $10,000, and the Land Rover was worth four times that amount. The Court ruled that this was plainly excessive, and that the prohibition against excessive fines applies to states in addition to the federal government.

But if seizing a car after selling a small amount of heroin is unconstitutional, then surely seizing a car after being convicted of nothing is also unconstitutional. This happens all the time in civil asset forfeiture cases, where police seize cash, cars, houses and more even if the owner has never been convicted of a crime. It is then up to the victim to go to court if she wants the property back.

I can only assume that this case sets the stage for a big ruling on civil asset forfeiture. This is one of the great injustices in the American justice system, and it’s long past time for the Court to either ban it or, at the very least, to severely rein it in.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate