Civil Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Argues That the State Should Be Able To Take Everything You Own if You Commit a Drug Crime

The state used civil asset forfeiture to seize Tyson Timbs' car in 2013. His nightmare hasn't ended.

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In 2013, Tyson Timbs sold drugs to an undercover cop. Suffering from a history of addiction, he relapsed after the death of his father the previous year.

In 2021, the state of Indiana is arguing why it should have the right to steal his car, and the assets of those like him.

The two may seem entirely unrelated. That is because, in many ways, they are. Timbs purchased a $42,000 Land Rover in January 2013 with his father's life insurance payout; the transaction was divorced from any drug offense. But under a practice called civil asset forfeiture, states are permitted to seize property if someone is merely suspected of committing a crime, often even without an indictment. In Indiana, prosecutors may proceed simply with a preponderance of evidence.

Appearing before the Indiana Supreme Court yesterday, the state argued that it was plainly constitutional when they robbed Timbs of his Land Rover nearly eight years ago—the third time they have made such an argument before the state's high court over the last four years.

In May 2020, Timbs reclaimed the car, but only after a legal saga that saw his case ping-pong up and down the rungs of the U.S. court system. Indiana's high court rejected Timbs' initial plea, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet ruled on whether the Eighth Amendment—which protects against excessive fines and fees—applies to states.

In February 2019, SCOTUS said it does. The Indiana Supreme Court then created guidance on what qualifies as "excessive," but instead of deciding on Timbs' case specifically, they passed the buck to a lower court with the new rules in hand.

A trial court ruled in his favor in April 2020, writing that seizing the vehicle—which was worth four times the value of the maximum financial penalty for the crime Timbs committed—was indeed "excessive."

Indiana was unfazed. "The state is once again asking the Indiana Supreme Court to hold that there is no proportionality limit on how much property they can forfeit, that they can forfeit a Bugatti if it goes five miles over the speed limit, regardless of what an obvious mismatch and injustice that would be," says Sam Gedge, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, the legal nonprofit representing Timbs.

Their alternative argument isn't much better. The state maintains that, even if proportionality is on the table, "when it comes to punishing anybody who struggled with drug addiction, no punishment is too high," Gedge explains. "So [the state] can basically take everything they own, and that shouldn't violate the excessive fines clause."

States generally defend that line of thinking under the guise that asset forfeiture helps fracture criminal enterprises. Reality paints a different picture. Police often pocket the proceeds in department slush funds—a lucrative game, when considering that state and local governments have leveraged the law to steal more than $68 billion from people in their communities since the year 2000.

More fraught is that such recourse does not have an impact on crime. But it can prevent people from successfully reintegrating into society after a stint in the criminal justice system. That was not lost on the Indiana trial judge who ruled in Timbs' favor last April, describing the car as "a tool essential to maintaining employment, obtaining treatment, and reducing the likelihood that he would ever again commit another criminal offense."

Timbs did his time, serving one year on house arrest and five years on probation. Both have long passed. It appears the state, however, would like to punish him forever.

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    5. Who benefits when Porkey uses Civil Asset Forfeiture to punish “criminals”?
      Follow the money. Who are the real criminals?

  2. How can this state, so libertarian in many respects, act so thuggishly? It’s such a nice place, where I was born and raised. It’s so saddening and maddening.

    1. To paraphrase a certain author, we’ve always been at war with drugs.

      Asset forfeiture needs to go.

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    2. It was such a nice place. I have lived here my whole life. Maybe it was under the veil of youthful innocence that I believed that Hoosier Hospitality existed, but I havent seen it by and large since my adult years. This state is extremely conservative, you would be hard pressed to find many libertarians here. Many of the kids I went to high school with are huge Trump fans and some even dabble in the Q conspiracy bullshit. They do not give one fuck about using a heavy hand in law enforcement to come down on those they view as morally bankrupt – which usually involves some tinge of moral superiority derived from years of indoctrination at the local church homecoming.

    3. Because fuck you, that’s why.

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    5. Wait, I thought we were talking about Indiana here?

      1. Biden says Trump should no longer receive classified intelligence briefings.President Joe Biden doesn’t believe former President Donald Trump should receive classified intelligence briefings, QWsa as is tradition for past presidents, citing Trump’s “erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection………READ MORE

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    6. Don’t confuse prosecutors and police with the whole state.

      1. The Democrats disqualification goes far beyond the psychiatric restrictions that federal law currently imposes on gun ownership, which are already overly broad but DWsq apply only to people who have undergone court-ordered treatment…READ MORE

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    7. How can this state, so libertarian in many respects, act so thuggishly?

      Looters gonna loot.

      -jcr

    8. Restoring The Dream;
      That state may have some libertarian leanings, but the pigs don’t, and neither do the prosecutors.

  3. In Indiana, prosecutors may proceed simply with a preponderance of evidence.

    You know who else insists on using the “preponderance of evidence” standard?

    1. Title IX administrators?

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      2. The phrase there is “proof by accusation”

    2. AOC? Although I’m guessing that’s probably WAY too high a standard and after reconsideration AOC’s standard is more like IMNSHO FYTW.

  4. reason has figured out they will get no where attacking democrats, and they lost the chance at reforming the federal government. So now they will attack state and local republicans who of course never fight back. The goal is to get 100% one party state governments.

    Not very libertarian.

    1. There is nothing in the libertarian philosophy about refraining from criticizing policies because of which party is doing it.

    2. We need a MAGA wet mop on aisle 2 as in tu quoque. Butthurt Republican girl-bullier reduced to tears and pants-wetting after getting sand kicked in face by reality.

    3. That sounds rather batshit crazy.

  5. Indiana Argues That the State Should Be Able To Take Everything You Own if You Commit a Drug Crime

    Let’s face it. At the end of the day, this is what The State believes.

    1. You’ll own nothing and be happy. – The WEF

      1. Yeah, the state is eschewing the spiritual benefits of owning nothing, and conferring that benefit on the people. It’s all give, give, give!

  6. Reason argues that you should be summarily executed for insurrection if you were among a crowd of 20,000 people, 200 of which walked past barricades into a public building with police escorting and directing them where to go. Authoritarianism is in the eye of beholder, I guess.

  7. Suffering from a history of addiction, he relapsed after the death of his father the previous year.

    Leading off by stating this nitwit’s pathetic justification for the continuation of a lifetime of bad choices ruins all that follows. Pretending this guy is a victim of anything but his own stupidity allows the drug warriors to summarily dismiss your arguments for why this should not be happening. Like BLM does most of the time, you are backing a tainted victim.

    Civil asset forfeiture is a crystal clear violation of the 5th Amendment. It does not satisfy the right to due process. Even if it wasn’t, it is applied arbitrarily and a massive conflict of interest that agents of the state get to benefit from the proceeds. Despite all of that, the worst part may be the judges pretending that it is an effective deterrent to people who simply don’t give a shit about the rule of law. It is only punishment to people who don’t have easy access to more cash, i.e., not actual drug dealers.

    Don’t dilute the message. Have someone read your story first and leave the pathetic excuses on the editing table.

    1. “He was in fact guilty – [describe circumstances] – but that doesn’t mean what happened to him was just.” Would that work?

      The excessive-fines clause, like the ban on cruel and unusual punishments, is premised on the assumption that the person is guilty but, despite guilt, has some rights left.

    2. According to Chuckles the Smug-Pig (using Smug-Pig’s “logic” vis-a-vis Section 230), stealing all of the druggy’s property with flat-out Government Almighty fiat might be bad, maybe… But it is ALL made TOTES cool… WONDERFUL maybe even… If we just get ONE person to file a “civil” lawsuit against druggy-dude, first!

      Hey druggy-dude, your drug habits hurt my baby feelings, so I am taking you to CIVIL court! NOW after THIS particular magic wand is waved, Government Almighty taking his property is just WUNDERBAR!!! (Maybe I’ll get the leftovers after Government Almighty taxes the shit out of my lawsuit-lottery winnings).

      https://reason.com/2021/02/04/how-biden-is-repeating-trumps-mistakes/#comment-8742467

      Hey Chuckles the Smug-Pig… You do know this, right? Your magic underwear will NOT protect you from the results of your smug-pig ways!!!

      1. LOL look whos butthurt because nobody reads his psychotic, irrelevant babbling 😀

    3. The victim’s back story isn’t relevant here. The state stole his 42,000 dollar car for no apparent reason. When do the indictments get handed down for that crime?

  8. Indiana has an interesting prohibitionist past after the Klan installed there in the 1920s. Hammond on the border with Illinois was a distillery town with a large corn sugar factory near which 3 Capone cronies turned up dead n 1929. The tax case of a moneyed guy named Murdock overlapped Al Capone’s. I finally found the fellow in 1950s obituaries in the 1950s. He worked for that American Maize corn sugar plant. That plant is owned by Cargill today, and the taint of dirty cops and crime-generating laws against production and trade still clings to the region.

  9. “Indiana Argues That the State Should Be Able To Take Everything You Own if You Commit a Drug Crime”

    That does not seem anywhere serve enough. There are lots of crimes we could take everything when committed. Let’s extended that to all crimes starting from jaywalking and shoplifting, up to mass murder.
    (sarc)

  10. Thou shall not covet thy neighbors houses, asses, or wives. Or wive’s asses.

    Thou shall not steal

    And not bearing false witness… well… that’s a case by case sort of thing, but I suspect the likelihood of that happening goes up significantly when the state could gain a significant amount of money or property from a conviction.

    But “conservatives” only thump the bible when its convenient.

    1. While “liberals” steal taxpayer money for any damn cause they think matters, right, lefty shit?

      1. While, conservatives take your money for road repair and never repair the roads….

    2. They’re more concerned with the male coveting and consensual partaking of male asses than with the actual forcible seizure of private property. The mere pre-occupation with coveting of any kind shows that the Religious Right would establish thoughtcrime at the first opportunity.

    3. Thou shall not covet thy neighbors houses, asses, or wives. Or wive’s asses.

      Unless thy neighbor’s wife is really hot.

  11. Civil asset forfeiture should only be allowed if these conditions are met.

    1) Suspect is charged and convicted of a felony
    2) Asset is proven in court to have been purchased solely by funds derived from the specific felony the suspect is convicted
    3) Victimless crimes would be exempt from civil asset forfeiture
    4) Seized assets are are not given to any government agency
    5) Community non-profit organizations that are associated with supporting victims of the specific felony would receive the assets

    Barring these conditions, civil asset forfeiture is state sponsored property violence and there is a massive conflict of interest where government is incentivized to seize property to fund their nefarious enterprise.

    1. That is a good list, or we could just not take property.

  12. But how am I going to drive my shipments from Chicago to Pittsburgh without going through Indiana?

    1. Go through Kentucky or Canada.

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  16. And many or most politicians will strive to make every action a crime, themselves and their relatives and donors excluded, of course.

  17. Here’s a wild thought: If a State authority can seize citizen’s propeerty extrajudicially and without limit, up to everything that a citizen has, what is to stop citizens from protecting and avenging the seizure of their property extrajudicially? Isn’t asset forfeiture putting officers and citizens alike in jeopardy?

    Wouldn’t this especially be the case if the seizure was total? Like Bob Dylan put it: “When you’ve got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose…”

  18. Here’s a wild thought: If a State authority can seize a citizen’s propeerty extrajudicially and without limit, up to everything that a citizen has, what is to stop citizens from protecting and avenging the seizure of their property extrajudicially? Isn’t asset forfeiture putting officers and citizens alike in jeopardy?

    Wouldn’t this especially be the case if the seizure was total? Like Bob Dylan put it: “When you’ve got nothin’, you’ve got nothin’ to lose…”

  19. Damn squirrels have forfeitured my posts and tried to make knock-offs of them!

  20. Forfeiture is an abomination and needs to be eliminated.

    SIn the meantime, surely we can salve the needs of the cops to damage criminal enterprises (they think) without lining the pockets of the cops. We should demand that all forfeiture proceeds go into victim restitution funds only, and never ever into police budgets or even the state or county or city general funds.

    At the very least, this may remove some of the perverse incentive cops have currently to abuse forfeiture processes.

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