Can a state impose any fine, no matter how outrageous?
Or does the U.S. Constitution prohibit states and local governments from imposing excessive fines, fees, and forfeitures, just as it prohibits the federal government from doing so?
These questions will soon be answered, after the U.S. Supreme Court granted review of the Institute for Justice’s petition for certiorari in Timbs v. Indiana. The case will have nationwide implications because it raises an unsettled question of constitutional law: Whether the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to state and local authorities.
The case shines a spotlight on the excessive fines and fees often imposed by governments, and showcases yet another example of the inevitable abuse of power that results when government employs civil forfeiture, a process through which police and prosecutors seize someone’s property and keep the proceeds for themselves, thus giving law enforcement an incentive to maximize profits rather than seek the neutral administration of justice.
The case has attracted amicus briefs from a diverse coalition of groups calling on the Court to hold that the Excessive Fines Clause applies nationwide. These groups include the Cato Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Constitutional Accountability Center, and Pacific Legal Foundation. All of the amicus briefs can be downloaded from the Supreme Court’s website.
The following video news release discusses Tyson Timbs v. State of Indiana, which will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in the fall of 2018.
The case examines whether a state may impose any fine—no matter how excessive—or if the U.S. Constitution prohibits states and local governments from imposing excessive fines, fees and forfeitures, just as it prohibits the federal government from doing so?
Members of the media are invited to use these high-res clips and accompanying transcript in their reporting of this case.
Civil forfeiture laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property—regardless of the owner’s guilt or innocence. This updated and expanded second edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture makes the…