Supreme Court Commentaries
civil forfeiture, Eighth Amendment, incorporation
Constitutional Law | Supreme Court of the United States
In Timbs v. Indiana, Petitioner Tyson Timbs asks the Supreme Court to incorporate the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment against the states, providing extra protection for individuals against fines and forfeiture that are “grossly disproportionate” to the harm caused. The decision to incorporate the Excessive Fines Clause and the guidelines for applying that incorporation would have a substantial effect on governments, which often rely on the revenue gained from forfeiture. This commentary argues that the Supreme Court of the United States should incorporate the Excessive Fines Clause based on historical support of an individual’s right to be free from excessive fines. Further, the Supreme Court should reaffirm its guidelines as described in Bajakajian, which weigh the harm caused, the maximum fines that could be levied against the defendant, and whether or not the defendant is meant to be targeted by the statute. These guidelines sufficiently protect individual rights but do not encroach on the established societal expectation regarding property seizure. The Supreme Court should remand the case back to the Indiana Supreme Court with instructions to apply the Excessive Fines Clause in a way that best weighs the Bajakajian factors.
Kris Fernandez, Timbs v. Indiana: The Constitutionality of Civil Forfeiture When Used by States, 14 Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy Sidebar 1-18 (2019)