The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a defendant's SUV was seized by the state after he was convicted of a drug crime. Many states and the federal government engage in asset seizures after drug and other arrests, often before a conviction has been obtained. All the government has to prove is that the assets in question can be tied to illegal activity -- either having been purchased with proceeds of a crime or used in the commission of it. So, what was the problem here?
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "excessive fines" applies to states and local governments as well as to the federal government. The high court had never actually ruled that the clause applied to states and local governments, although many people assumed that it did.
When Tyson Timbs of Indiana was convicted of selling a small amount of heroin in order to support his opioid addiction, he was sentenced to a year of home detention and five years of probation. The court could also have fined him up to $10,000, but chose not to. But Indiana law allows private law firms to intervene on behalf of the state, and one filed a civil forfeiture case and seized Timbs' $42,000 Land Rover.