In a unanimous 9–0 decision released this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with IJ and Tyson Timbs and ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s protection against excessive fines applies to every level of government. Writing for the majority, Justice Ginsburg states that “[p]rotection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties. … They can also be employed, not in service of penal purposes, but as a source of revenue.”
IJ brought this vital constitutional question before the Court last November in the context of civil forfeiture, which perfectly illustrates the majority opinion’s point. In allowing state and local governments to seize and keep cash, cars, homes, and other property—often without ever convicting owners of any wrongdoing—forfeiture laws give law enforcement a powerful incentive to police for profit.
This decision will provide every single American, including those who fall victim to forfeiture abuse, with robust constitutional protection against excessive fines imposed by state and local governments. Moreover, today’s opinion gives IJ ammunition to take on other abusive fines and fees schemes throughout the nation. We also plan on making Timbs the first in a series of cases the Court takes on to fundamentally reassess the constitutionality of civil forfeiture laws.
Thank you for making these historic accomplishments for liberty possible.
ScottScott G. BullockPresident and General CounselInstitute for Justice
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