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Supreme Court deals a blow to civil asset forfeiture

Remember way back in December when we talked about civil asset forfeiture? Well, on February 20, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in Timbs v. Indiana that could change a lot of that.

In that case, Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty to a drug and theft charge in state court. The maximum monetary penalty for those offenses was $10,000. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement had seized a Land Rover that Timbs had purchased for $42,000 using proceeds from his father’s life insurance. Law enforcement alleged that Timbs had used the vehicle to transport heroin, justifying their seizure of the vehicle. After litigation in the state courts over the forfeiture of a vehicle valued at over four times the potential penalty for his drug offense, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

The USSC ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s protections against excessive fines apply to the states under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and, in keeping with its prior ruling in Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, held that these types of forfeitures fall within the protections of the clauses cited above when they are at least partially punitive.

This ruling strikes a blow against civil forfeitures by state law enforcement agencies across the country. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges and the government is also attempting to seize their assets, give us a call at (318) 459-9111 to set up a consult.