Free Minds & Free Markets

The SUV That's About To Change Asset Forfeiture Rules Nationwide

The future of civil asset forfeiture law in the United States now revolves around a single Land Rover.

The future of civil asset forfeiture law in the United States now revolves around a single car: Indiana resident Tyson Timbs' $42,000 Land Rover. It's a nice ride. So nice, in fact, that Timbs argues his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment were violated when the state seized it in 2015 after Timbs was arrested for selling heroin to two undercover cops. The SUV, which Timbs did not purchase with drug money, is worth four times the maximum fine for the crime he committed, a "grossly disproportionate" penalty, a lower state court found.

The Indiana Supreme Court, however, ruled that the Eighth Amendment had yet to be applied to the states, unlike much of the rest of the Bill of Rights. So Timbs took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he found a more receptive audience.

During oral arguments in November, the justices peppered Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher with pointed questions and openly mocked his argument that there is effectively no seizure under asset forfeiture laws that would qualify as excessive. Justice Stephen Breyer, to the laughter of his colleagues, even goaded Fisher into claiming it would be constitutional to seize any car going five miles over the speed limit.

SCOTUS watchers highly expect that the Court will incorporate the Eighth Amendment, extending the U.S. Constitution's protections against excessive fines and fees to state laws and giving plaintiffs like Timbs a new line of attack against asset forfeiture, which has traditionally been fought on due process grounds.

At least one lawsuit has already been filed in anticipation of the forthcoming ruling. In December, Detroit resident Crystal Sisson filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit challenging the aggressive asset forfeiture program in Wayne County, Michigan.

Sheriff's deputies pulled over Sisson after they surveilled her entering a Detroit medical marijuana dispensary. After allegedly finding her with $10 worth of pot and discovering that she did not have a medical marijuana card, the deputies issued her a criminal citation and seized her 2015 Kia Soul.

Sisson had to pay the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office $1,200 to avoid having her car forfeited; her suit now argues that the forfeiture and the fine were excessive under the Eighth Amendment. Whether the Supreme Court will also define what constitutes an "excessive" fine remains to be seen.

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  • Heresy Hunter||

    So what parts of the bill of rights apply to the states? The first and second amendments do, right?

  • Still Curmudgeoned (Nunya)||

    Yeah, that really stuck out. An actual argument would be that we decided all of these other paragraphs apply, just not this one. Because FYTW?

  • JFree||

    Not FYTW. Because incorporation has to occur with a specific case brought to the SC to rule on it. 14th amendment has two clauses that allow incorporation - due process or privileges/immunities. The Slaughterhouse Cases of 1873 ruled that P&I didn't apply - and it still stands - so only the due process method can be used and that is much narrower

  • Robert||

    AFAICT, "incorporation" is too narrow a concept. The 14th Amendment uses the word "rights" w/o further qualif'n. Seems to me that applies to many more things than mentioned in the federal bill of rights.

  • Robert||

    Not only "rights", but "liberty"!

  • JFree||

    Personally I tend to agree. 14th amendment explicitly created 'American citizen'. And that should involve explicit rights and liberties - of AMERICAN citizens - with explicit federal authority to enforce/protect - that apply post-Civil War and today but that were completely ignored and irrelevant in 1789 with slavery.

    But getting there would require a constitutional convention. Can't just keep patching an old junk car with WD-40 and duct tape. But America is almost certainly too poisonous today to even have that sort of conversation - about what it means to be American.

  • Longtobefree||

    "Can't just keep patching an old junk car with WD-40 and duct tape."

    You're not from around here, are ya?

  • Arcxjo||

    Whatever is convenient. In the 2020 state budget, Hoosiers will be quartering Indiana National Guardsmen in their homes.

  • JFree||

    Incorporation of Bill of rights

    SC has ruled that 1st thru 8th (or at least parts of each) aply.

  • Tu­lpa||

    I don't think you read that article because it says in the intro "However, the post-Civil War era, beginning in 1865 with the Thirteenth Amendment, which declared the abolition of slavery, gave rise to the incorporation of other Amendments, providing more rights to the states and people over time"

  • JFree||

    Bill of Rights is the first 10

  • Tu­lpa||

    Cool story bro, but in your rush to get it wrong, you missed the point.

    The intro was just evidence that you didn't read the article.

    Anyone can see by clicking that all you did was go to the "specific amendments" which is itself wrong as it gives specious reasoning for not including the 9th and tenth.

    Happy to help you look less wrong and stupid.

  • JFree||

    I was replying to the person who posted about the BILL OF RIGHTS.

    Now go back to your outhouse you constipated old fart.

  • JFree||

    And it was the Bill of Rights that was SPECIFICALLY held by the SC to not apply to the states by Barron v Baltimore in 1833. So those are the ones that the SC now specifically has to incorporate.

  • Tu­lpa||

    And you picked a stupid source that got it wrong.

    Which I just said.

    God damn son, why do you make me keep sonning you?

  • Tu­lpa||

    Ah you realize you got it wrong, your defensive second post proves it.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    More economic devastation directly resulting from the hacked election of 2016.

    Payless ShoeSource prepares for bankruptcy that could come within weeks, plans store closures

    Think about what this means. Almost everyone needs shoes, right? But this Drumpf economy is so bad that a store selling something essential cannot even survive! What's next? Are the places you buy water and underwear and toothpaste still going to be in business in another month?


  • Rockabilly||

    Woman ARRESTED For Misgendering Transwoman On Twitter

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    At least they're Civilized enough to have FREE HEALTH CARE!

  • Rockabilly||

    A Yale University newspaper editor is urging students to spy on white-male classmates

  • croaker||

    Yale DESERVES to get hit with a 20% endowment tax.

  • Arcxjo||

    Payless who opened a fake store where they gave shoes away for free after idiots even offered to pay $600 a pair? How could they NOT be making bank?

  • DASGUY||

    I think Amazon is more to blame, but think what you want.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Probably a part. I think they also are beaten by better shoe stores these days, too

  • Untermensch den 2||

    I'm guessing OBL is performance art.

  • Sevo||

    It's supposed to be a parody account.

  • Ray McKigney||

    My hat's off to xim, whoever xe is.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    "My hat's off to them, whoever they is."

    They have made their pronouns known. Don't be rude.

  • Echospinner||

    Proggies are trying to force Orange Cream CocaCola down our gullets. I refuse to accept this abomination and trampling of our signature national beverage. If they want to call it Coke, fine but it needs a seperate section in the soft drink aisle.

    Anybody know Warren Buffet's email address?

  • Fk_Censorship||

    Palin's Buttplug was banned? How come?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I don't know why. And I wish Reason would reconsider. But in this thread there are several instances of people replying to Mr. Buttplug's posts that have since been deleted.

    We're in luck, though. There is a new commenter named "moneyshot" who is carrying on the Buttplug tradition. Be on the lookout for his links detailing the abysmal state of the Drumpf economy.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Yes, but to quote the great Bernie Sanders, "You don't necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country."

    Payless declaring bankruptcy just opens up the door for The People's Shoe Company to take hold. Crocs for all!

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Are there any Amendments specifying inalienable rights that the States can ignore?

  • Arcxjo||

    All of them, according to Indiana.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Man I hope these lawsuits succeed. Civil asset forfeiture is so evil. The state creates a million laws, demands citizens obey all the laws, and reserves the right to seize all your stuff if you break any one of them, no matter how petty or minor. It is ridiculous.

    Of course I'm sure Ken will be along shortly to lecture us all about how we shouldn't look to the courts to uphold our rights, we should just stand by and let civil asset forfeiture happen until the people rise up and demand change.

  • DevilDog943||

    Actually, Civil Asset Forfeiture is worse than that. The cops can (and do) legally steal your stuff on their say so that you 'offended' somehow. No formal charge, trial or conviction is required. If you want your stuff back, you have to prove (at your expense) you aren't guilty. Often, especially for poor folks, the cost of recovering their property exceeds the worth of it.

  • Cyto||

    "Sisson had to pay the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office $1,200 to avoid having her car forfeited; her suit now argues that the forfeiture and the fine were excessive under the Eighth Amendment. Whether the Supreme Court will also define what constitutes an "excessive" fine remains to be seen."

    Uh, that's not an excessive fine.

    That's just a protection racket. They haven't even bothered dressing it up. They just stole her car and made her fork over as much cash as they thought they could get.

  • Cyto||

    An interesting angle on the incorporation of the 8th amendment would be parking violations.

    Most municipalities have an organized-crime-turned-legal-process procedure for illegal parking or other violations that involves preferred towing companies confiscating vehicles and holding them for exorbitant ransoms. A $35 parking ticket might run you over a thousand dollars in towing and impound fees. I'm not sure how you can view that as anything other than "excessive".

    I've never experienced it, but I did have a friend who got towed (wrongly) in a big city. They dropped the ticket, having made a mistake, but he was still on the hook for towing and impound fees. It took him 3 days to find his car, at $250 per night "storage fees". Any city that is OK with charging more for a 24 hour parking space than you'd charge for a motel room is nothing more than organized crime wearing makeup.

  • Griffin3||

    What city? Name 'em and shame 'em.

  • DajjaI||

    All my proggie friends on Facebook have retreated in shamed silence as the dem candidates out-commie each other with their announcements decrying the plight of 'millions' of people who have been degraded to the humiliating status of having to work for a living. Meanwhile, libertarians keep rolling out headlines like this, an issue which will actually improve the lives of the most vulnerable. #keepupthegoodwork

  • Hank Phillips||

    The fact is that asset-forfeiture looting causes money to flee banks and brokerages, and the economy collapses. This is the case that'll let the Feds make their crash and depression problems go away without losing the geriatric Prohibitionist Klansmen they depended on for votes before all men were mortal.

  • JFree||

    I'm not going to defend asset forfeiture. But there really is a danger to the notion of federalism with the double incorporation of excess fines and just compensation. Those two pretty much incorporate everything that states can do to screw people. Which means every state law could be challenged in both state court and federal court and since federal court is superior, state courts would no longer matter and federal courts would be swamped and essentially states would cease to exist as complete govts with three branches. They would become essentially franchises of the federal govt.

  • Heresy Hunter||

    But can a state law directly violate a constitutional provision such as the eighth amendment? For example, the first amendment says that "Congress shall make no law..." Is this referring to all legislatures in the US or the national Congress only?

  • JFree||

    With incorporation that means neither Congress nor a state legislature may make a law... Have to shift the negatives around to make a grammatically coherent clause. So no they can't directly violate the constitution. Likewise, neither the state executive nor the federal executive would be allowed to implement such a law. But judicial authority of the US constitution is NOT incorporated - only federal courts can interpret the US constitution. So anyone who doesn't like a state law - and can make a case re excess fines (taking too much) or just compensation (not giving enough) - would be able to jurisdiction shop their case. Which means federal courts would also no longer be restricted by the enumerated powers stuff either (not that congress or exec branch are in practice).

  • Squirrelloid||

    Well, jurisdiction shopping is legitimate. I mean, prosecutors get to do that all the time, with the federal government feeling the need to criminalize things the states have already criminalized. Why should "the man" be the only one who gets to jurisdiction shop?

    And Jurisdiction shopping already happens in lots of other cases as well, without any total breakdown in court processing. Jurisdiction shopping is good for the people, and good control on government's excesses.

    The real danger to federalism is increasing federal power, which is already well passed the reasonable point, and already having damaging effects on governance and population interest. Which is why no one really cares about state elections. (About the only reason state elections are even of interest to most people these days is because of the effect they have on federal elections through gerrymandering - how many people do you know who can even name their state AG? Exclude virginia - even i can name him right now, and I live nowhere near that state). Nothing else is even a drop in the bucket as a 'danger to federalism'.

  • JFree||

    Why should "the man" be the only one who gets to jurisdiction shop?

    That's enough of a problem - but only corporations and the rich with lawyers on retainer will actually be able to do that. So there will be, legally, two sets of laws.

    And the federal system will be a)the least representative legislature in the world in b)a corrupt lobbyist special-interest filled city 1000 miles away with c)a judiciary that has no experience at the state level and doesn't even need to BE from the states/regions they will adjudicate for. That's no way to reduce govt excess. It's a way to ensure it.

    This just smells like a be careful what you wish for cuz you might just get it - right in the teeth

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I'm inclined to agree with your points about federalizing everything, but at some point, there seems to be a real and clear constitutional precedent here.

    If states explicitly refuse to recognize any limits on asset forfeiture, and those states are the very ones benefiting from the forfeiture, something is very broken.

  • JFree||

    Agree something is broken.

    Just not sure that federalizing both excess fines (takes too much) AND just compensation (doesn't give enough) is a cure that's better than the disease.

  • JFree||

    I guess my real issue is that this diminishes actual separation of powers to nothing. And an overreaching fed level is already the main problem

  • Jerryskids||

    The future of civil asset forfeiture law in the United States now revolves around a single car:

    Funny, I thought it revolved around whether or not Elizabeth Warren or one of her "wealth is evil and a civilized society would not allow it" ilk gets elected. You'll wish their greed were satiated by just taking your car.

  • ||


    Government theft is still theft.

    2 wolves and a sheep voting on whats for dinner come to mind.

  • Mr. Flanders||

    The issue of civil asset forfeiture has been one of the only things I have been able to use to convince some of my more right-leaning relatives to reconsider their blind faith in the US law enforcement/judicial system.

  • Skyhawk||

    How quaint. There are still people in this country that are so naive they think there are actually 'rights' that protect them from the government.
    How can someone look around and see where virtually every 'right' has been, and continues to be, violated., egregiously over and over again and think that 'rights' exist?
    And to think that one government entity (USSJC) is going to undermine the profitable piracy of another government entity, when both profit from egregious violations of nearly all 'rights' is laughable.
    I predict this will turn out like any other time the police investigate police abuse or corruption.

  • vek||

    Could be a game changer for shooting down crazy state laws.

  • Sikichka||

    According to judicial statistics, the number of confiscations increased last year. However, in practice there are a number of problems. The fact is that by law confiscation is not a punishment, but a measure of a criminal law nature. And this is a fundamental difference: according to the current rules, you can only take illegal money. Or the property that is bought on them -


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