Timbs v. Indiana (2019)

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Timbs v. Indiana (2019), a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision, declared that the “excessive fines” provision of the Eighth Amendment is applicable to the states, not just the federal government, thus incorporating this Eighth Amendment protection into the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The case involved Indiana’s seizure under civil-forfeiture proceedings of Mr. Timbs’s $42,000 Land Rover, which he was driving when he was arrested and later convicted for selling $225 of illegal drugs. Among other penalties, he was fined $1,200. When Indiana refused to return his vehicle, Mr. Timbs filed suit, arguing that the state’s keeping of his vehicle was an excessive fine. The Court had ruled in 1993 (Austin v. United States) that the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines applies to asset forfeitures by the federal government.


Michael J. Duffy, “A Drug War Funded with Drug Money: The Federal Civil Forfeiture Statute and Federalism,” Suffolk University Law Review 34:3 (2001): 511-540; Victor E. Hartman, “Implementing an Asset Forfeiture Program,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 70:1 (2001): 1-7; Alice W. Dery, “Overview of Asset Forfeiture,” Business Law Today (June 2012): 1-5; Brent Skorup, “Ensuring Eighth Amendment Protection from Excessive Fines in Civil Asset Forfeiture Cases,” George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 22:3 (2012)): 427-458; Brent Ashley, “Uncivil Asset Forfeiture: An Analysis of Civil Asset Forfeiture and Virginia H.B 48,” Richmond Public Interest Law Review 20:3 (2017): 293-304; and Vanita Saleema Snow, “From the Dark Tower: Unbridled Civil Asset Forfeiture,” Drexel Law Review 10:1 (2017): 69-126.

Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government and Public Service Lafayette College

Last Updated: March 2019