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Timbs case asks questions about civil forfeiture

California residents may be familiar with the concept of civil forfeiture. When a person commits a crime, authorities may take assets that were used in the commission of that crime. However, the value of the items may need to be taken into consideration when imposing such a punishment. In the case of Timbs v. Indiana, a man had his $42,000 Range Rover taken from him after allegedly selling heroin to undercover police officers.

In the state of Indiana, the maximum fine levied for a felony drug charge was $10,000. Therefore, the man was deprived of an asset that was valued at more than four times the maximum fine. The question that the Supreme Court is faced with in the Timbs case is whether the Eighth Amendment should apply only in federal cases or to states as well. The Supreme Court in Indiana found that it was not bound by federal statutes.

The issue of civil forfeiture is one that both sides of the political aisle have been skeptical of. In fact, liberal justices Kagan and Sotomayor as well as conservative justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch have all shown concern about such programs. However, the justices did caution that merely prohibiting excessive fines wouldn’t have a practical effect on a person’s rights. It would also need to define what is meant by excessive.

Those who are facing drug charges could have their assets seized by authorities. This could happen before a person is convicted of the crime that they have been charged with. An attorney may be able to help an individual receive a favorable outcome in their case as well as regain their property. Legal counsel might do this by arguing that the punishment was excessive or that it was based on illegally obtained evidence.

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.