Civil Forfeiture
Private Property

Timbs v. Indiana Oral Argument

  • After Tyson Timbs got caught selling four grams of heroin to undercover officers, he pleaded guilty to drug dealing. He served one year on house arrest, paid $1,200 in court fees, and, most importantly, got clean. But the state of Indiana cared a lot more about his car—an expensive (and legally purchased) Land Rover, which he was driving the day of his arrest. The state filed a lawsuit to civilly forfeit the vehicle, arguing that it had been used to convey Tyson a few blocks to one of his meetings with the undercover officers.
  • Both the trial court and the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the forfeiture was “grossly disproportional” to Tyson’s offense and thus unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Excessive Fines Clause did not apply at all to state and local governments. IJ took over Tyson’s case and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.
  • In February 2019, the nation’s high court ruled unanimously that the Excessive Fines Clause applies not just to the federal government but to the states as well, settling this important constitutional question once and for all. For Tyson, though, the fight continued. It took another year of litigation in the Indiana state courts before he finally got his car back.
Listen to the Argument

Attorney Who Argued The Hearing

about the case