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The United States Law Week

States Can’t Impose Excessive Fines, Justices Likely to Rule

Nov. 28, 2018, 4:42 PM

It seems almost certain the U.S. Supreme Court will say that the constitutional prohibition on excessive fines applies to the states as well as the federal government after oral arguments today.

It’s 2018 and the court is still arguing about whether the Bill of Rights applies to the states? Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said.

“Really? Come on,” he added.

It’s really just “constitutional housekeeping,” the lawyer for Tyson Timbs told the justices.

What isn’t clear is whether such a court decision would actually help Timbs, who brought the case claiming the state of Indiana overreached when it seized his $40,000 Land Rover SUV in a civil action following a drug conviction.

Instead, the justice could simply say that states can’t assert excessive fines without deciding whether the civil forfeiture in this case is actually a fine.

The case is Timbs v. Indiana, U.S., No. 17-1091, argued 11/28/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com