A Victory for the People
On Wednesday, February 20, 2019 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that confiscation of property by law enforcement is no longer an option, or, as the law enforcement agencies described it, a “cash cow.” The case was Timbs v. Indiana where Tyson Timbs was caught selling heroin in Indiana, and the police seized his $42,000 Land Rover, claiming that he transported the heroin in the Land Rover. Under Indiana state law, the maximum fine for selling heroin was $10,000, so confiscating a $42,000 vehicle was in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that is, it was “cruel and unusual” as well as an “excessive fine.” There are two articles that I wrote, the easiest accessible is: http://writerbeat.com/articles/23162-Curtailing-The-Cash-Confiscating-Constable
The lower courts ruled in Timbs’s favor, but the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional ban on excessive fines didn’t apply to the state of Indiana. The Supreme Court of the United States said otherwise, and said so unanimously. Under the 14th Amendment, the Due Process and the “excessive fines” restrictions do, in point of fact, apply to the states, and have since it was ratified on July 9th, 1868. Let me say that again, since 1868.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated that the constitutional safeguard against excessive fines is “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” and “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” To quote The Wall Street Journal of February 21, 2019: “The important practical point is that Timbs v. Indiana put the states and cities on notice. Some police departments have set annual targets for asset seizures, and a limiting legal principle has been nowhere to be found.”
While guidelines in terms of value are still not set, as the Journal said: “Defendants trying to protect their property against unjust state seizure will now have the Constitution firmly on their side.” After 228 years, we have finally brought the states under control. The saddest part of this story is that it took the United States Supreme Court two-hundred and twenty–eight years to stop the states and other law-enforcement agencies from taking what they knew that they shouldn’t be taking.
As for “guidelines” how about the Indiana case of Timbs, where the confiscated cash exceeds the fines of the crime? So while the judges ponder what to do about cash seized, how about applying existing law? I’m not a judge, but that seems pretty reasonable, and it was the crux of the Timbs case. The precedent has been set. It is time to follow the law, and respect the rights of citizens.
The fears of a “conservative” Supreme Court might just be allayed by this ruling, but I have yet to see anything about this ruling, as of two days later, in the mainstream media. This ruling goes against all of the criticism and warnings about Trump being a threat to the freedom and liberties of the American people. The authorities took cash from citizens and felt no shame; they were backed up by courts who encouraged them with rulings in their favor. The party is over for seizing what they had no right to take in the first place. As for the judges and legal authorities who perpetrated this injustice upon American citizens, I offer no respect. It should have never had to come to this, except that some authorities needed for the Supreme Court to state unanimously, (that means there were no judges who disagreed) that it is not supposed to happen in this land of the free. In the future, should such behavior occur again, the judges should do what a Florida judge did, and make the authorities give back the cash seized, and then pay more to compensate the victims of this crime for the legal fees they incurred fighting to get their money back. Fair is fair, and my highest of respect and compliments to our Supreme Court, who recognize the rights of the citizens of our great republic. Long live freedom.