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Supreme Court agrees to hear civil forfeiture, expungement cases

February 15, 2017

The justices of the Indiana Supreme Court have agreed to decide whether the state should be allowed to seize a heroin dealer’s Land Rover as a fine for his drug crimes despite the fact that the vehicle is worth four times more than a statutory cap on fines.

The high court has granted transfer to the case of State of Indiana v. Tyson Timbs, 27S04-1702-MI-70. In that case, a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to deny the state’s motion to seize Tyson Timbs’ Land Rover, worth roughly $40,000, in a civil forfeiture action related to his drug dealing and theft convictions. The statutory cap on fines is $10,000, the majority wrote, so seizing the Land Rover would be a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Further, the majority noted that Timbs bought the car using proceeds from his father’s life insurance policy, not with proceeds from his drug deals.

Judge Michael Barnes dissented from the majority and all justices concurred in the grant of the transfer petition.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer to T.A. v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1702-JV-69, in which the Court of Appeals allowed a Marion County man’s juvenile record to be expunged after finding that a criminal charge filed against him after he moved for expungement could not be held against his expungement case. All justices concurred except Justice Geoffrey Slaughter, who did not participate in the decision.

The justices denied transfer to 21 other cases last week, including Carl Wayne Montgomery v. Patricia Ann Montgomery, 10A01-1511-DR-1910. In that case, the court let stand a Clark Circuit Court order modifying the custody agreement for a child, A.M., in favor of her father, Carl Montgomery, and removing her from the primary physical custody of her mother, Patricia Montgomery. Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Steve David dissented, writing that they would have accepted transfer because they believed the Court of Appeals erroneously reweighed the evidence in the case.

The full list of transfer decisions can be found here.

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