February 20, 2019
Decided February 20, 2019
Timbs v. Indiana, No. 17-1091
The Supreme Court held 9-0 that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of excessive fines applies to the States.
After Tyson Timbs pled guilty to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft, an Indiana state trial court considered Indiana’s request for civil forfeiture of his Land Rover, which he used to transport heroin. The trial court denied the request, reasoning that forfeiture of the vehicle would be grossly disproportionate to Timbs’s offense, and thus impermissible under the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause, because Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for $42,000—far more than the maximum $10,000 fine assessable against him for the drug conviction. The Indiana Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the Excessive Fines Clause applies to only the federal government, not the States.
Does the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause apply to the States?
Yes. The Excessive Fines Clause is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 767 (2010), and therefore applies to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
“[T]he historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming.”
Justice Ginsburg, writing for the unanimous Court
What It Means:
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