SCOTUS to hear Indiana civil forfeiture case Wednesday

An Indiana case that could decide whether the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines applies to the states will be heard at the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The nine federal justices will hear arguments in Timbs v. Indiana, 17-1091, at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The justices agreed to hear the case in June after the Indiana Supreme Court last year upheld the 2013 forfeiture of Tyson Timbs’ $42,000 Land Rover.  

The state seized Timbs’ vehicle after he was arrested and charged on drug and theft counts. Both the Grant Superior trial court and the Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the forfeiture, finding it was “grossly disproportionate” to Timbs’ offenses. The appellate court, in particular, noted the vehicle was worth roughly four times more than Timbs could have been required to pay in fines.

But the Indiana justices reversed, finding the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines clause has not been incorporated to the states. The Virginia-based Institute for Justice then took on Timbs’ case and argued to SCOTUS that the Excessive Fines Clause had been incorporated.

Specifically, IJ attorney Sam Gedge argued in Timbs’ cert petition that other Eighth Amendment protections, including protections against cruel and unusual punishment, have been found by courts to have been incorporated to the states.

“The (the Eighth Amendment clauses) all secure a parallel set of rights to be free from excessive fines and punishment,” Gedge told Indiana Lawyer in June. “If one clause is incorporated, then the others should be incorporated, as well.”

Indiana Solicitor General Thomas M. Fisher will represent the state during Wednesday’s argument.

Indiana Lawyer managing editor Olivia Covington is attending Wednesday’s argument and will provide updates from the Supreme Court in Washington. Check and IL Daily for updates Wednesday, and read more about the Timbs case and Indiana civil forfeiture reform in the Dec. 12 issue of Indiana Lawyer.  

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