Civil Asset Forfeiture

Indiana Said the Government Should Be Able To Take Everything You Own if You Commit a Drug Crime. The State Supreme Court Wasn't Having It.

After eight years, Tyson Timbs finally gets to keep his Land Rover—once and for all.

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In February of 2021, almost eight years after the state of Indiana seized Tyson Timbs' brand-new Land Rover over a drug crime, prosecutors argued that there should be no proportionality when it comes to such offenses—in other words, that the government should essentially be free to take everything you're worth.

Today, the state's highest court categorically rejected that.

The conclusion is not only good for Timbs—who will get to keep his vehicle, once and for all—but for others who would have fallen victim to Indiana prosecutors' extremely broad definition of what constitutes a legal and proportional civil forfeiture. The practice allows the government to take your property and pocket it, sometimes if you're only suspected of committing a crime. In Indiana, prosecutors must merely meet the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which requires less than evidence than is needed to get a criminal conviction.

After unsuccessfully making his way through the state courts, Timbs' case was the subject of a 2019 landmark Supreme Court ruling, which dictated that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against excessive fines and fees applies to state governments. His case then returned to Indiana's high court, whose judges sent it back to the trial court and back up again.

In other words, this was the third time the Indiana Supreme Court was tasked with deciding who owned Tyson Timbs' car: Timbs, or the state.

Timbs—and those who might find themselves in a similar position—finally won.

"Today's ruling is an important victory for property rights across Indiana," says Timbs' attorney, Sam Gedge of the Institute for Justice. "We're thrilled that the Indiana Supreme Court recognized the government's overreach in Tyson's case, and we think it's going to be a key precedent in combatting civil forfeiture going forward."

Chief Justice Loretta Rush likened the government's chutzpah to "Captain Ahab's chase of the white whale Moby Dick." Timbs, she concluded, "met his high burden to show that the harshness of his Land Rover's forfeiture was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the underlying dealing offense and his culpability for the vehicle's misuse."

She added that "addiction is not a categorical means to inflate the seriousness of a predicate offense"—a rebuke of the government's quest to set no limit on what they can take from people who struggle with drug issues.

Indiana prosecutors' position may sound extreme, but it fits right in with the state's general attitude toward legalized theft. Also in February of this year, the Indiana Senate passed a bill to seize assets from people suspected of "unlawful assembly," a vague crime often used to break up protests.

"The attorney general's 'anything goes' approach to civil forfeiture has definitely hit a setback with today's decision," says Gedge.

NEXT: The 9th Circuit Considers Whether the DEA's Classification of Marijuana Violates Federalism and the Separation of Powers

Civil Asset Forfeiture Criminal Justice Indiana Drugs Drug War Courts Institute for Justice Supreme Court

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58 responses to “Indiana Said the Government Should Be Able To Take Everything You Own if You Commit a Drug Crime. The State Supreme Court Wasn't Having It.

  1. That’s funny because California government said they should be able to take everything you own because fytw, and the state Supreme Court said yep sounds good

    1. Well yeah. Both sides, duh.

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  2. In February of 2021, almost eight years after the state of Indiana seized Tyson Timbs’ brand-new Land Rover

    Which will be returned with an additional 70,000 on the odometer, and the same oil in the engine.

  3. Asking for a friend – does Timbs owe taxes for the time he did not have the car?

    1. Failing to register and insure your car for 8 years?

    2. You only pay taxes when you first buy the car. He wouldn’t be required to register or insure it for any period of time he wasn’t driving it on public roads

      1. So when he goes to pick it up and drives off without current registration, tags, and insurance the cop waiting for him at the exit will pull him over, harass him, and then shoot him when he doesn’t freeze/put his hands out the window/no, freeze.

        1. Presumably, the smart thing to do is tow it, at least I would after such a harrowing ordeal with the State of Indiana.

  4. Expect more of this behavior as we veer toward one party rule by hard left democrats.

    1. Can’t even tell if this is sarcasm given how ridiculous some of the commenters are here.

      Progressives oppose civil asset forfeiture completely, and really only the center-right blue dogs are clinging to it. Meanwhile on the right, besides Paul and Amash I can’t even think of anyone else in Congress that even supports reforming it.

      1. “Progressives oppose civil asset forfeiture completely…”

        Bullshit. WTF are taxes?

        1. Taxes are how governments function, being that unlike businesses they don’t produce anything of value to sell. So they must force people to pay for services they neither want nor need, because they would never do so voluntarily.

          Civil asset forfeiture is accusing your property of a crime and then putting the burden of proof on you in order to get it back.

          Not even apples and oranges. More like apples and dingleberries.

          1. Sarcasmic seems to think that asset forfeiture is other than a revenue stream.
            Sarcasmic is nit real bright.

            1. Sevo is “nit” veruh guuut aht schpelling…

          2. Many police departments’ budgets rely on civil forfeiture and various fees and fines to function.

            And, dingleberries? On further inspection, you, sir, are a troll. Consider yourself muted.

          3. Accusing your property of a crime is even more stupid than the idea that the government has the right to rob you and call it taxation.

          4. I beg to differ. Just last week the IRS sold financial and tax information for an undisclosed sum. That is an item of value to sell. They may have only collected it, but its close enough to producing.

      2. >>Progressives oppose civil asset forfeiture completely

        lol who runs the Po?

      3. If Dems were actually interested in reform then why do so many of the cities/states they control rely on it? It isn’t just a federal issue.

        Also Amash is not in Congress anymore. But off the top of my head can think of 3 more R’s who are critics; Mike Lee, Mike Crapo, and Thomas Massie.

        That isn’t to say Repubs don’t have an issue with it. Jeff Sessions ,as AG, tried (succeeded?) to lift the small reform of making the federal seizure program only available when the Federal government was directly involved in the case.

      4. And yet, civil asset forfeiture remains the rule in states where Ds control all branches of the government, civil asset forfeiture remains the rule in many large D-controlled cities, civil asset forfeiture is pressed by D attorneys general, etc.

        Very few Ds have joined Paul and Amash in actually doing anything about CAF abuse.

      5. “…Progressives oppose civil asset forfeiture completely,..”

        Sarc or stupidity?

      6. It’s easier to break out of an Iranian prison than it is to get your car back from the city of Chicago.

        Dems love taking your shit and creating bureaucracy to keep you from getting it back.

          1. Lincoln Park Pirates.

            That’s a song about a private towing company, not the government….

            And the reason that towing company can cause so many problems is……..lack of regulations of towing operators in the state and city.

            1. Too many regulations are the problem and they protect assholes from government and their friends.

              Allow residents to shoot tow trucks and you’d see problems decrease quickly.

      7. Really?

        WA, NJ, MA, VA, GA are the largest states to still get an F on the Drug Policy Institutes grading for civil assert forfeiture. 4 out of 5 are Blue.

        To be sure there are about a dozen smaller states that are mostly Red that get F’s too, but in terms of population it looks pretty even.

      8. 1. Not all Democrats – indeed, not *most* Democrats (Biden got the nomination, after all) – are Progressives.

        2. What do you think income redistribution is?

      9. Progressives oppose civil asset forfeiture completely

        Which is why it’s been done away with in the deep-blue states…right?

    2. must be why it was a REPUBLICAN state attorney general prosecuting the case. he was secretly in league with the left

    3. Dude, asset forfeiture has been around since the days of piracy on the high seas. Initially, asset forfeiture was used against pirates and post-1808 slave traders, now it is a tool for the State to engage in piracy and slavery. Left/Right/Democrat/Republican doesn’t enter into it except to rile up trolls.

    4. FFS you partisan hacks are ALWAYS being deliberately deceitful.

      Here’s a map of civil asset forfeiture laws ‘graded’ by state. I have no idea whether this type of grading is even remotely accurate – but even if this group (Clergy for a New Drug Policy) has an agenda to distort things I’m pretty damn sure it isn’t some hard-left conspiracy.

      Looking at the states ranked ‘F’ (from north to south) – Alaska, Washington, Idaho, S Dakota, Wyoming, Massachusetts, New Jersey, W Virginia, Kansas, Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, S Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Hawaii.

      Provide evidence of the commonality of ‘hard-left’ orientation, particular party control of legislature/governorship, etc.

      Damn lying sacks of shit every one of you partisan hacks. How the hell are you all able to keep a job in the real world outside your politicized bubbles

  5. >>government should essentially be free to take everything you’re worth.

    try and stop it.

    1. That’s why they’re covertly repealing 2A.

  6. In Indiana, prosecutors must merely meet the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which requires less than evidence than is needed to get a criminal conviction.

    It’s my understanding that this is the standard that meets the guidelines for broad Social Justice.

    1. Only for sex crimes, but for those they call it the preponderance standard because there is none lower, the actual standard is ‘If the woman recants and the man has 5 witnesses and unambiguous video proof he wasn’t within 10 miles of the victim, we’ll flip a coin. So long as the man isn’t an important neoliberal politician.’

    2. Social Justice in Indiana? The law probably actually says ‘less than evidence than’.

  7. Civil forfeiture sans a conviction should be unconstitutional – government taking private property without due process of law. The state should be beheld to a higher standard, not a lower one. Mere suspicion of a crime is NOT a conviction by a jury of your peers.

    1. There’s a process. They accuse the property of a crime and then make the owner prove its innocence before getting it back.

      1. Innocent until proven guilty is just another lying American slogan.

        1. Police officers are considered innocent until proven innocent in a court of law.

          Um, yeah. You’re right.

  8. The poor guy. Now he has to maintain a Land Rover that’s out of warranty.

    1. The excise tax will be much lower though.

  9. Please tell me the state is paying his eight years of legal fees and the difference in value between a brand new land rover and an eight year old one. Actually, please tell me that the arresting officer is paying all of that out of his own individual pocket.

  10. So the dude who slapped Marcon was convicted and sentenced to 6 months and it took a day to do it. This fucking case took 10 fucking years. Now I understand it’s not completely analogous but god damn there ought to be a better way of figuring this shit out.

    1. Macaroon is a member of the French elite – graduate of the ecole and a very senior politician. He’s an important person and the guy who slapped him is a nobody. Of course the government worked fast here.

      This Timbs guy is just some sort of junkie. A nobody.

      1. Macron probably has a “Piss-Boy” too.

    2. Hey, Sullum. Who the hell is “Marcon”?

  11. The adversarial system of justice is not necessarily the best way. I’d like to see a way to resolve these questions up front and without all back and forth shit.

    1. Yeah, that way’s been tried before. Where prosecution brings a case and there is no defense allowed because that’s too much trouble.

      You *would* like it.

      The rest of us prefer to leave it.

  12. We all know what the cops really want to confiscate, and that’s a BBC.

    1. Your mom beat them to it.

  13. 10 years for a land rover. Hell you could probably buy 1000 rovers for how much this case costed everyone …

    Yeah yeah, I know thats not what’s its about its precedent for other people … but still, something is deeply wrong with the justice system when this happens.

  14. After getting slapped down like this, I’m sure the state prosecutors have learned their lesson and will be much more humble in the future.

  15. What distubs me about asset forfeiture are these questions: Could the State go so far as to confiscate a person’s retainer for their defense attorney? Also, could the State threaten asset forfeiture against people who shirk jury duty?

    If the State could do these things, it has terrible implications for the right to a fair trial in any criminal case,

Comments are closed.