Civil Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Returns Land Rover Seized 7 Years Ago in Landmark Asset Forfeiture Case 

Indiana is still fighting to keep Tyson Timbs' SUV seven years after it first seized the car, but for now, it's back in Timbs' driveway.

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It's been almost seven years to the day since the state of Indiana seized resident Tyson Timbs' Land Rover for a drug crime, launching a legal odyssey that would take Timbs all the way to the Supreme Court and lead to a landmark ruling on civil asset forfeiture.

On Tuesday, Timbs arrived home to find that same Land Rover back in his driveway.

Although the Indiana Attorney General is still appealing Timbs' case at the Indiana Supreme Court—the third time the court has been asked to consider the tangled case of Timbs' SUV—his car has been returned for the moment, according to the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm that represents Timbs and has challenged forfeiture laws in several states. 

"For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits," Tyson said in a press release. "To me, the State's refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they're trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my parole officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and be contributing members of society."

Timbs pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling heroin to undercover police officers and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation. But Indiana also used a practice known as civil asset forfeiture to seize his $42,000 Land Rover, which Timbs purchased with money from his late father's life insurance payout, not the proceeds of drug sales.

Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property—cash, cars, and even houses—suspected of being connected to criminal activity. Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a critical tool for disrupting drug trafficking and other organized crime. 

However, civil liberties groups say the practice creates perverse profit incentives for police and is disproportionately used against low-level offenders like Timbs, and in many cases against people who aren't even charged with a crime. More than half of U.S. states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reforms in response to these concerns.

Timbs challenged the seizure, arguing that taking his vehicle, which was worth four times the maximum fine for the crime he committed, amounted to an unconstitutionally excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. The Indiana Supreme Court rejected that argument on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court had never explicitly ruled that the Eighth Amendment applies to the states—a doctrine known as "incorporation."

Last February, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment and its protections against excessive fines and fees applied to states. "For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in the Court's opinion. The ruling opened up a new avenue for plaintiffs like Timbs trying to challenge asset forfeiture in court.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on what constituted an "excessive" fine. It kicked that question back to the Indiana Supreme Court, which created a three-prong test last October to determine when a government fine or seizure is disproportionate to the alleged offense. The Indiana Supreme Court in turn sent Timbs' case back to a state trial court to be reconsidered.

In April, an Indiana judge ruled that, under the new test, the seizure of Timbs' Land Rover—"a tool essential to maintaining employment, obtaining treatment, and reducing the likelihood that he would ever again commit another criminal offense"—was unconstitutionally excessive and ordered the vehicle returned.

The Indiana Attorney General is now appealing that decision to the state supreme court, again.

"Tyson's case has gone through every level of the American judicial system—in some instances, twice," Institute for Justice senior attorney Wesley Hottot said in a statement. "The state's relentless use of its forfeiture machine is—and continues to be—a profoundly unjust exercise of power, and it underscores that civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today."

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76 responses to “Indiana Returns Land Rover Seized 7 Years Ago in Landmark Asset Forfeiture Case 

  1. The ultimate result of the case is irrelevant as far as the state is concerned. They have managed to wreak their vengeance on Tyson regardless.

    1. Their goal was to steal his car and sell it, and in that regard they have failed.

      I have no doubt that some government goon gets his rocks off by just shitting on people needlessly, but never forget that the state’s ultimate goal is to extract as much wealth from the people as they can. They lost out on ~$40k in lucre here, which has to just absolutely stick in their craw.

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      2. The state should have to prove the property was bought with drug money. I am ok with that.

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        2. drug money

          100 years ago the citizens were still sufficiently educated to understand that you need to amend the constitution to make drug money (Boo!) illegal.

    2. The state lost big on this one, since it set a precedent that will be hard to overcome

      1. They don’t lose as long as the process still exists. It is still the worst part of the punishment for minor infractions.

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      2. They will just rewrite laws to make it legal.

        1. Not with libertarian spoiler votes covering the gap in so many looter kleptocracy elections they won’t.

    3. Yeah but the aim was also to be able to KEEP stealing, and if they have to give the car back that means they can’t. Precedent is important, it’s the difference between an abusive rule and random pyschosis with guns. People might tolerate the former but if the government can’t afford to be seen as the latter. So they have to follow precedent, which means if you beat them once you beat them 1000 times.

  2. At least he can take solace in how much money he has cost the state in litigation fees.

    1. He cost the tax payers. Everyone involved in the incident has since received at least three promotions.

      1. This is always the rub for me in cases like this. When a private entity loses a judgement in court they pay restitution from their own pockets. This is a punishment because they cannot simply will more wealth into being. When the state loses a judgement in court it is the people themselves who pay the restitution. The state’s “budget” is never affected. No one will be held accountable. As far as the state is concerned they are probably on the net happy to see forfeitures contested. That there’s an employment program for state defense attorneys. As for the police department, if they didn’t get a few grand for auctioning off this vehicle they’ll just go seize a few more.

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    2. Timbs has saved US money by preventing more ot the asset-forfeiture looting that causes money to flee the fractional-reserve banking system. THAT is what causes depressions. Market crashes are simply the the flight of people who can see what is about to happen. Their money on leaving triggers leveraged contraction of the money supply.

  3. The lengths people who work for the government go to fuck over the people they allegedly serve never ceases to amaze me. This AG in Indiana. Those evil cops in Minneapolis basically taunting people begging them to stop strangling a handcuffed man. It’s like they enjoy depriving people of their life, liberty and happiness.

    And yet, year after year, we elect a bunch of people who not only don’t do anything about this shit, but actually seek more power to inflict pain on the peasants that don’t work in the government.

    Glad this guy got his car back, but man, what a price he had to pay. And the government still hasn’t let this shit go. What public interest is being served by this shit?

    1. Perhaps the Indiana AG doesn’t want to be known as the AG and Indiana the state that derailled the gravy train for all of the other states.

      1. Sadly, there’s probably a lot of truth to your suspicion. I’m a lawyer, who admittedly doesn’t practice criminal defense or civil rights law, but I (along with attorneys and non-attorneys alike) can’t figure out how in the flying fuck civil asset forfeiture hasn’t been deemed unconstitutional on its face. It’s like they dreamed up the most clear violation of due process they could, and courts are just now SORT OF starting to consider that it might be a problem…

        1. Nope…

          Qualified Immunity is every bit as bad.

        2. Because the courts, long ago, sold out their power as a separate branch, if they ever were. They are merely an extension of the other two branches and the oligarch. Rarely siding with the people. Even the “tests” they come up with are so slanted in favor of the powers it is abhorrent.

    2. “It’s like they enjoy depriving people of their life, liberty and happiness.”

      It’s the primary reason for working for the government.

  4. The state’s relentless use of its forfeiture machine is—and continues to be—a profoundly unjust exercise of power

    It’s not about the forfeiture machine, it’s all about the exercise of power. They don’t give a shit about Timbs or the car or the money, it’s about stamping out any tendency to question their absolute authority to rule.

    1. WELL SAID

  5. But Indiana also used a practice known as civil asset forfeiture to seize his $42,000 Land Rover, which Timbs purchased with money from his late father’s life insurance payout, not the proceeds of drug sales.

    Now if we can just get community property states to see divorce a little differently too.

  6. What condition is this car in? Was it started and serviced regularly, or did it sit and rot for 7 years? How many extra miles has it got from the State agents who borrowed it?

    1. I wanted to know the same thing.

    2. How many bugs and trackers did they install in it?

      Did they plant drugs in it to set him up?

      1. Of course there’s bugs and trackers and planted drugs (and probably weapons) hidden in it. We will soon be treated to photos of Derek Chauvin standing on this guy’s neck, just to show us what happens to people who just won’t submit.

  7. Hope the authorities took good care of the vehicle over those 7 years. At the very least it should have been started up every now and then. The oil and other fluids should have been changed. Those tires probably needed to be replaced too – perhaps due to dry rot. Land Rovers are notoriously unreliable, so I hope lack of proper care over those 7 years doesn’t mean even bigger repair bills for Mr.Tyson.

    1. I hope he sues them to fix his Land Rover that they lot rot for a better part of a decade. That will probably set them back more than the legal fees.

    2. Land Rovers are notoriously unreliable, so I hope lack of proper care over those 7 years doesn’t mean even bigger repair bills for Mr.Tyson.

      As I said below, I remain unconvinced the State didn’t save him some money.

    3. Land Rovers are made of biodegradable parts. I’m surprised the thing still starts…

  8. I’m just wondering how many miles the police cheif’s kid put on the thing.

  9. Indiana Returns Land Rover Seized 7 Years Ago in Landmark Asset Forfeiture Case

    Then they cited the owner for failing to register the vehicle, and having an out of date state inspection sticker.

    1. Don’t forget suspending his license for failure to provide insurance.

    2. Indiana doesn’t have state vehicle inspections…

  10. Fuck Indiana. Good for this guy.

  11. But Indiana also used a practice known as civil asset forfeiture to seize his $42,000 Land Rover, which Timbs purchased with money from his late father’s life insurance payout, not the proceeds of drug sales.

    Not to be too big of a stickler, but Reason does have a habit of telling half-truths when it comes to stories like this. That said, what was the other $42,000 dollars used for? Also, possibly, what did the Dad die of? Not saying asset forfeiture makes sense, just saying he had $42K of ‘clean’ money and presumably $42K of ‘dirty’ money that was either found in a stainless steel briefcase handcuffed to his wrist or that was spent on something else. If the claim is that he spent his inheritance on the Land Rover and his drug money on donations to a orphanage and/or if his Dad died of a heroine overdose, I’d probably say “Money is fungible.” and seize the Land Rover too. Especially if some of his customers identified him as “White Land Rover Dude” or similar.

    As usual, relative to other cases where the entirety of the crime consists of “Being a large sum of cash held by a brown person in an airport”, this one sounds a little less than clear and, again as usual, Reason just pretends like the good guy convicted heroine dealer is beyond any reproach.

    1. WTF is wrong with you? What can anyone think is proper about civil asset forfeiture under any circumstances? It only makes sense after a criminal conviction.

      It ain’t your money. It ain’t the po-po-s money. It ain’t anybody’s money but his, and it ain’t anybody’s business but his what he buys with it?

      WTF kind of libertarian do you claim to be?

      Fuck off, slaver. Mind your own fucking business.

      1. It only makes sense after a criminal conviction.

        He was convicted:

        Timbs pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling heroin to undercover police officers and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation.

        And this is *exactly* my point. Reason routinely comes across cases where no conviction is ever made and the case literally boils down to U.S. v. A Large Sum of Money. This is categorically different than those cases.

        It ain’t your money. It ain’t the po-po-s money. It ain’t anybody’s money but his, and it ain’t anybody’s business but his what he buys with it?

        Again, per the conviction, some amount of money was ill-gotten gains. Also, again, it’s not at all beyond Reason to skip over the fact that the only reason police were tipped off that the guy would sell them some smack was because everyone referred to him as ‘the guy in the White Land Rover’ or that his friend said that he only got involved selling to pay for his Land Rover.

        I’ll totally believe he only made ~$500 selling heroine. I’d also believe that seizing his truck as condition of his house arrest isn’t unreasonable. I’d agree that continuing to seize his truck after his house arrest was up is unjust. My point is, none of that is detailed here and, unlike other cases where there is no conviction, here the details could matter.

        1. The conviction was far less than the value of the car.

          So you get convicted of shoplifting an apple. They steal your car, your house, your business. Like that? Is that what you think is fair?

        2. You can’t count a guilty plea as actually being guilty. Chances are very good that the “guilty” plea was a result of weighing the cost of pleading guilty to a much lower plea vs taking the chance that mad.casual was going to be on a hanging jury.

          1. This ALL DAY!

          2. hances are very good that the “guilty” plea was a result of weighing the cost of pleading guilty to a much lower plea vs taking the chance that mad.casual was going to be on a hanging jury.

            So what you’re saying is that you think he’s really guilty of worse and would’ve been convicted for it but the DA/court decided to let him off on a plea to a lesser charge.

            I wasn’t going so far as to defend the DA. I was saying that if they wanted to seize the truck they needed to show evidence that the truck was illegally obtained. The article doesn’t indicate such one way or the other and property-rights-oriented libertarians would, under normal circumstances, bet sticklers that way.

            1. Ah! The DAs let him off on a lesser charge so that they could get their hands on his sweet Land Rover! Sure, DAs can afford much better cars and generally like sticking it to people and, in this case, could have their Land Rover cake and eat it too, so they probably let him off because they’re really crypto-libertarians looking to win a victory for liberty over the war on drugs and civil asset forfeiture! Win-win-win! Why didn’t the Reason writers just say so?

              1. careful, managing sock puppet accounts takes practice

            2. if they wanted to seize the truck they needed

              to pass an amendment to the constitution denying the right of the people to ingest what they choose. Like they knew they needed to do 100 years ago.

      2. Case in point:

        The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on what constituted an “excessive” fine. It kicked that question back to the Indiana Supreme Court, which created a three-prong test last October to determine when a government fine or seizure is disproportionate to the alleged offense. The Indiana Supreme Court in turn sent Timbs’ case back to a state trial court to be reconsidered.

        SCOTUS didn’t determine it to be excessive. SCOI(N) didn’t determine it to be excessive. A local judge determined it to be excessive after 7 yrs. which means the next judge could find the exact same case to be a-OK as long as the time the truck is held is less than 7 yrs.

        And I’m not saying I agree with that hypothetical ruling, I’m just saying that it’s conceivable that there are facts that support it.

      3. You should be nicer to dumb people. Punching down is a bad look.

        1. Says the guy inadvertently painting the DAs as the good guys.

    2. A heroine dealer would be someone who sells plucky girls. Honestly, is it too much to expect you to spel thing corectly?

    3. Literally doesn’t matter. If the maximum fine is $x, they shouldn’t be able to take more than $x from him in any way.

      Civil Asset Forfeiture comes from maritime law, and is only supposed to be used on goods which are abandoned and have no knowable owner. It’s use against goods obviously owned by people is an abomination, and not supported by common law.

  12. …if they’re trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my parole officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work?

    Well, here’s the thing about that…

    1. I’m gonna take a shot at answering his question: Because fuck you that’s why.

  13. If I’m the judge he gets his car back with a check for 7 years deprecative value, to be paid by the county in which the prosecutorial team were employed.

    1. If I’m the judge he gets his car back with a check for 7 years deprecative value

      It’s a Land Rover, I remain unconvinced didn’t save him some money.

      1. I remain unconvinced you are able to walk and chew gum. Your repeated irrelevant comments display a serious lack of cognitive capacity.

        1. Hey, can you explain how someone who plead guilty in 2015 gets his car returned after 7 years in 2020? Because I can’t.

          It seems plausible that his car was illegally seized 2 yrs. prior to his conviciton, but that’s not quite clear. Moreover, as indicated in the article, this wasn’t a broad blow against Civil Asset Forfeiture made by SCOTUS, it was a decision made on a narrow scope by an IN state court.

          So, it’s entirely plausible that the law, in IN, now says that asset forfeiture can only take place 18 mos. prior to your conviction and that’s the victory we’re, as libertarians, celebrating. Sorry for asking questions about this unquestionable victory.

      2. Stop fishing for laughs you’re not getting. It makes me feel sad and embarrassed for you.

        1. Any explanation as to how the car was apparently seized years prior to his plea/conviction?

          Or are you just criticizing the FYTW when offered by police/courts/DA but blindly accepting it when it’s provided by Reason?

          Will you feel better if, in the near future, the police/courts/DA don’t have to lie one way or the other because Reason will feed you your daily dose of FYTW on their behalf?

        2. The above comment is for Dturtleman.

      3. The above comment is for mad.casual.

  14. Nothing loses value faster than a Land Rover. I think the state only gave it back when they realized they had a lemon on their hands.

  15. Great work by the Institute for Justice!

  16. Is this a good example of how peace, love and happiness will prevail over asset forfeiture in the long run?

  17. Was it returned with a full tank of gas, as all non-weasel people know to do?

  18. Really Nice: I am happy to read Indiana Returns Land Rover Seized 7 Years Ago in Landmark Asset Forfeiture Case. I always got many things from reason.com. It looks like a series of upcoming movies https://www.seelatest.com/movies/upcoming-movies I used to read the blogs of reason’s in free time. It helps me to increase my knowledge and much more.

    1. Nice I also used to read it in my hobby time with my friends.

  19. At least in this case the person was convicted of a crime. The article says that he paid for it from a life insurance settlement. But if even 1 dollar from drug sales is co-mingled with that money, then it all becomes drug money, which is ridiculous.

    I can understand seizing property to compensate victims, but who are the victims in this case?

    Also – 7 years? Certainly the vehicle seriously needs maintenance and new tires after sitting that long. Who will pay for that?

    1. Isn’t the bigger story that they seized his car for 12-24 mos. prior to his conviction? Is this even what happened? Who knows? Who cares?!?! The point is a guy convicted in 2015 got his car returned after 7 yrs. in 2020! Fuck details. Fuck math. Libertarianism über alles!

    2. Whoops, the above wasn’t meant in reply.

  20. Biggest business on the Planet Earth? Associated with USA politics. The amount of money is vast, not easy to come by an $80,000 a month job with little of no experience but reportedly Hunter Biden did. Not a bad return on investment for Joe’s 35 years plus career. Admit Civil Asset Forfeiture is still growing what’s the yearly profit now?.

  21. The Prohibition Party and the Anti-saloon League conspired to enact the totalitarian Amendment banning beer–and wrecking the economy from 1913 to 1933. Today the Libertarian Party and Institute for Justice are undoing all that superstitious damage just as gradually, but no less certainly.

  22. The verdict – More than half of U.S. states have passed some form of asset forfeiture reforms in response to these concerns. fairfax electrician

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