Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man desperate for money to support his heroin habit, did exactly what the undercover cops asked him to do: sell them 4 grams of the drug in two transactions for a total of $385. His reward was a year of home detention, five years of probation and $1,200 in court-ordered fees.
Adding insult to injury, police seized the 2012 Land Rover that Timbs had bought with $42,000 from his father’s life-insurance payout. In a case that could lead to limits on the system of legalized theft known as civil asset forfeiture, the Supreme Court is considering whether Timbs can challenge the confiscation of his car as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “excessive fines.”
An Indiana judge rejected the forfeiture on that basis, deeming it “grossly disproportional to the gravity of [Timbs’] offense.” A state appeals court agreed, noting that Timbs’ car cost four times the maximum fine for his drug felony.
The Indiana Supreme Court reversed that decision. “The United States Supreme Court has never enforced the Excessive Fines Clause against the States,” it said, “and we opt not to do so here.”