IT’S ABOUT TIME (PART 1)

Supreme Court to rule on out of control excessive fines:

The Supreme Court seemed poised to curtail the power of states to assess fines Wednesday, when it heard a case respecting the reach of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines.

The high court’s decision could also go some way toward limiting asset forfeiture, a police practice whose abolition has become a cause celebre for civil libertarians.

Wednesday’s case arose when police seized a Land Rover belonging to Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man who was arrested and convicted on a minor drug charge. Timbs, who began using heroin after developing an opioid addiction, was arrested for executing two drug deals with undercover officers.

The total value of the transactions was $385. The Land Rover is valued at $42,000. Timbs is suing to recover his car. The Institute for Justice, a public interest law practice, represented him before the Supreme Court.

The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution provides that: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Though the Bill of Rights binds the federal government, it has not applied against the states for most of American history. Beginning in 1925, the Supreme Court began extending the Bill of Rights to the states on a case-by-case basis, beginning with the First Amendment. This process is called incorporation.

The most recent incorporation case was the 2010 McDonald v. City of Chicago decision, which applied the Second Amendment against the states.

Just a handful of provisions in the Bill of Rights have not yet been incorporated — including the Eighth Amendment ban on excessive fines — prompting the attorney for Timbs to cast Wednesday’s case as a bit of “constitutional housekeeping.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed.

“Here we are in 2018 still debating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really?” Gorsuch asked incredulously. Justice Brett Kavanaugh agreed, saying it was “too late in the day” to debate incorporation. (RELATED: Brett Kavanaugh Is Keeping A Low Profile In His First Months As A Justice)

Indiana counters that excessive fines aren’t quite at issue in this case. Here, Timbs’ Land Rover was seized because it was used to transport drugs, and authorities are free to confiscate the tools of a crime. These seizures are called forfeiture.

“This was an instrumentality of the crime,” Roberts said at Wednesday’s argument. “This is how he carried the drugs. I think it’s pretty well established your car can be forfeited.”

Other justices, like Justice Sonia Sotomayor, said those forfeitures are a fine in the sense that they are punitive, and sometimes disproportional to the underlying offense. To illustrate this point, Justice Stephen Breyer asked if police could seize a Bugatti if the driver was stopped for speeding. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher said they could.

“If we look at these forfeitures that are occurring today … many of them seem grossly disproportionate to the crimes being charged,” Sotomayor said.

Elsewhere she favorably quoted the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who compared such takings to the Star Chamber, an English royal court famous for its arbitrary abuses.

Breyer noted the Court has made it difficult for convicts to challenge their sentences as excessive. It would be rather unusual, he said, for judges to scrutinize excessive fines but not excessive jail terms.

Justice Elena Kagan followed up on this point. (RELATED: Trump, Bypassing Lower Courts, Asks Supremes To Reinstate Ban On Trans Soldiers)

“If it’s at least equally hard to assert a disproportionality claim with respect to fines, we could incorporate this tomorrow and it would have no effect on anybody,” Kagan said.

By the end of the argument, it seemed certain the Court would extend the excessive fines clause to the states, but it was not clear if they would conclude the clause also governs asset forfeiture at the state level.

A decision in the case is expected by June 2019.

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5 Responses to IT’S ABOUT TIME (PART 1)

  1. BobF says:

    It is about time.

  2. Jess says:

    It IS about time. Some police departments were snatching up tremendous amounts of personal property – including cash – regardless of the crime.

  3. Deplorable B Woodman says:

    I agree with the litigant in principle—-“asset forfeiture” (theft under color of law) as it is applied now is a crime in itself——BUT———the US Constitution and all its Amendments restrict the FedGov, NOT the states. This “incorporation” is another FedGov overreach, binding and tying the states TOO closely to the FedGov.
    What to do?
    “Bad things happen because good people don’t kill the assholes”.

  4. Eskyman says:

    Though I agree with the principle that Woody has expressed so well, it infuriates me when states and the Fed both have extended their grips on citizens to such an extent that the various governments are the biggest crooks that most of us will ever meet in our lives. They conduct shakedowns on us that we cannot resist, and both the states & the Fed have far overstepped their bounds.

    The first thing that caught my eye in this case was the fact that this confiscation started with entrapment. The cops set up shop as illegal drug dealers & then busted whoever made a deal with them. OK, that’s fine, so when are the cops that were engaged in the same drug deal going to court? Isn’t selling drugs a crime just like buying them is? “Tyson Timbs… was arrested for executing two drug deals with undercover officers. The cars the officers were driving were, just like Timbs’ car, “used to transport drugs, and…were the tools of a crime.” So when’s the auction, I want a slightly used cop car, as long as they’ve vacuumed their illegal drugs out of it that is!

    My point is of course that this guy was led into his crime by police officers who were also committing the same crime, which should be illegal for all of them. It isn’t, since it’s a shakedown operation and they’re after whatever illicit loot, cash or valuable assets they can grab. The only difference between these official scoundrels and the Mob is that the Mob has a certain degree of honor, and some things they will not do! The state & its minions have no limits to their greed, and they conduct their holdup robberies under the color of law.

    In far too many cases we find that “officially” we have Rights; it says so on a piece of paper in a museum, so it must be true, right? But like Einstein said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.” (Yeah, I used to think that was Yogi Berra too.)

    E.g.: Our “right” to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.” So will someone explain to me where the multiple thousands of laws that infringe upon this right came from & how we get rid of them? They’re obviously unlawful laws, but there they are. I can’t “keep and bear arms” now in California, I’d be arrested if I tried; but before 1968 I could. Did we amend the Amendment back then? No, it’s just that politicians of any variety- city, county, state or Fed- don’t give a damn about anything but being reelected, and to hell with anybody’s rights but their own!

    In short, this guy should get his car back & a nice settlement from the police department & the individual officers who performed this shakedown, and be a free man after his illegal arrest & imprisonment. He won’t of course. Too many of the boys in blue these days are thugs, and they’re supported in their thuggery by their superiors, who all get a cut of the swag.

    May all these crooks rot in Hell, and I’m one step closer to hoisting the Black Flag myself!

  5. Leonard Jones says:

    This all started with the RICO statutes. You cannot even count the numbers of cases
    where people were wrongly arrested for crimes had their homes, cars, bank accounts,
    etc. seized in raids, and were found not guilty only to spend 5 or 6 years fighting to get
    their assets back. It is a cash cow because the cities, counties, states and the federal
    government all get a piece of the action.

    As governor of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote most of the state laws, Asset forfeiture
    was legal, but only AFTER a conviction. There was a case in Malibu where teenagers
    were seen smoking pot in the backyard at a party. That led to a pre-dawn raid by
    local LEO’s. The owner came down the stairs with a pistol in his hand was shot
    by the cops. He survived but it took years for him to get his assets back!

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