Just the slightest glimmer. I’m not as excited as the author of this story about a wronged dope dealer:
The Supreme Court left little doubt Wednesday that it would rule that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states, an outcome that could help an Indiana man recover the $40,000 Land Rover police seized when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin.
A decision in favor of 37-year-old Tyson Timbs, of Marion, Indiana, also could buttress efforts to limit the confiscation by local law enforcement of property belonging to someone suspected of a crime. Police and prosecutors often keep the proceeds.
Timbs was on hand at the high court for arguments that were largely a one-sided affair in which the main question appeared to be how broadly the state would lose.
The court has formally held that most of the Bill of Rights applies to states as well as the federal government, but it has not done so on the Eighth Amendment’s excessive-fines ban.
Justice Neil Gorsuch was incredulous that Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher was urging the justices to rule that states should not be held to the same standard.
“Here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really? Come on, general,” Gorsuch said to Fisher, using the term for holding that constitutional provisions apply to the states.
Justice Stephen Breyer said under Fisher’s reading police could take the car of a driver caught going 5 mph (8 kph) above the speed limit.
“Anyone who speeds has to forfeit the Bugatti, Mercedes or special Ferrari, or even jalopy,” Breyer said.
It was unclear whether the justices also would rule to give Timbs his Land Rover back or allow Indiana courts to decide that issue. Some justices seemed willing to take that additional step.
“If we look at these forfeitures that are occurring today … many of them are grossly disproportionate to the crimes being charged,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
Yes, looking at all forfeitures occurring today, there is a huge problem. Thank you, wise Latina woman. ‘Cold Water’ Roberts was along with … cold water though, in a way, he might be right. But the problems are so many with these issues.
First, forget the anti-incorporation argument, libertarians. It’s as settled a matter as the fate of the nation. They will formally allow application of the 8th, through the 14th, to and against the States.
Second, as always, hard cases make bad law. No one likes a dope dealer. And there are 10,000 more noble poster children available. On the other hand, why is selling dope a crime (okay to be libertarian, here, still)?
Third, while the excessive fines per se or construed are an important issue in prosecuted criminal cases, the worse issue is the outright theft via “civil” forfeiture. They literally take your stuff – without even a solid accusation of wrongdoing – and keep it barring the jumping of many flaming hoops. The States, most of them, make a mint of this theft, the only criminal activity being committed by the government.
Fourth, it’s not just the States. Uncle Sucker is as guilty as any. Few raise any alarm and many (don’t let the door hit you, Sessions) rabidly defend the practice.
However the Court rules in Timbs, it will be some little good. Unfortunately, a lot of good is needed. We may never fully see it.
Take what you can get, freedom lovers. Take a hike, government thieves.