Attorney Michael Horowitz
United States Supreme Court Limits Civil Forfeiture
The United States Supreme Court just decided that the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which limits excessive fines, applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. In Timbs v. Indiana, the Court tracked the prohibition against excessive fines from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights to the present, and it explained that excessive fines can be used oppressively by governments to retaliate against political opponents. The Court also specifically cited the “Black Codes” a post-Civil War attempt by “Southern States . . . to subjugate newly freed slaves and maintain the prewar racial hierarchy.”
It should be noted that this decision does not strike down all of the various states’ civil forfeiture laws. Rather, the decision allows for individuals to challenge an excessive forfeiture on the grounds that it violates the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments.
The opinion can be read here.