After an eight-year court battle, Indiana resident Tyson Timbs finally succeeded in regaining possession of his Land Rover. In 2013, police seized Timbs’s vehicle as a civil asset forfeiture after arresting him for allegedly selling heroin to undercover officers. Timbs pleaded guilty to selling heroin and was sentenced to one year of home detention and five years of probation.
Civil Asset Forfeiture: Violation of Constitutional Rights?
Under the procedure of civil asset forfeiture, police regularly take and retain property that criminal defendants allegedly use when committing crimes. In this case, the government alleged that Timbs drove the Land Rover to purchase the heroin from his dealer. Timbs was driving the Land Rover when the police arrested him. Timbs filed a lawsuit arguing that the government’s taking of his Land Rover violated the Eighth Amendment’s clause prohibiting excessive fines because the vehicle’s value ($35,000) was greater than the maximum fine allowed for his alleged crime ($10,000).
The case traveled from the trial court all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in a landmark decision that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment applies to the states. Then the case traveled back down to the Indiana state courts before the Indiana Supreme Court found in Timbs’s favor in the most recent ruling. The court ruled that “the harshness of the Land Rover’s forfeiture was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the underlying dealing offense and his culpability for the vehicle’s corresponding criminal use.”
The court remarked that the case was “reminiscent of Captain Ahab’s chase of the white whale Moby Dick.” If the government decides to appeal the most recent decision to the United States Supreme Court (again), it could extend the court saga even further. Nevertheless, the court rulings in this case have provided defendants with additional protections for their property.
If you face criminal charges, or the government has seized your property under civil asset forfeiture, reach out to Razumich & Associates. We can help protect your constitutional rights to your property and freedom. Contact us at (317) 983-5333, [email protected], or through our website.