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Civil Asset Forfeiture Goes Before the Supreme Court

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After selling heroin to undercover police officers, 37-year-old Tyson Timbs was sentenced in 2015 to a year on home arrest with an additional five years on probation after pleading guilty to the charges. During the investigation, his 2012 Land Rover LR2 was seized. Now, the Supreme Court will determine whether taking his vehicle was “excessive.”

Timbs, a man from Indiana, began his legal battle in an attempt to recover his Land Rover, which he had previously used to transport heroin. As part of the investigation, according to a report by Fox News, the vehicle was seized.

His legal team is urging the Supreme Court, who will hear the case, to determine that the prohibiting of “excessive fines” outlined in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution also applies to the states.

In Indiana, fines for Timbs’ crime have a maximum amount of $10,000, which is far below the value of the Land Rover.

“At first it was about getting my truck back because I was mad, and I wanted my stuff back. Now it’s a lot different,” Timbs stated. “I was curious to see how often they did this to people. They do it a lot around here, and apparently, it’s done all over the country.”

Timbs reportedly paid $42,000 for the Land Rover in 2012 after receiving a life insurance pay-out of over $70,000 when his father died.

Ultimately, the money didn’t last long, and Timbs began both using and selling heroin.

“A drug addict shouldn’t have a whole lot of money,” he asserted. “That’s not a good idea.”

While trying to sell heroin for the third time, he was pulled over by law enforcement and subsequently arrested. His vehicle was also taken based on civil forfeiture laws in Indiana.

Since his legal trouble began, Timbs obtained treatment and says he has been clean for three years.

“I’ve started to live like a regular human being should for the most part,” said Timbs. “I’m finally able to start looking forward to planning the rest of my life, hopefully, get married in the next year or two. Things have been really good.”

There are multiple examples of states using civil forfeiture and excessive fines for relatively small crimes. One instance involved a man in Georgia who was required to pay $360 a month during his probation even though his crime was stealing a $2 can of beer. Another example involves a Michigan man for owed less than $9 to the state government for property taxes, but his property was seized and auctioned off for $24,500.

Wesley Hottot, Timbs’ lawyer, asserts that “civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights today.”

While Timbs’ case was heard by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, a ruling isn’t anticipated until next summer.