INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
State lawyers argued Friday that an Indiana man should lose his $40,000 Land
Rover over selling $400 worth of heroin even though the U.S. Supreme Court
used that case for a key ruling on excessive fines earlier this year.
came as the Indiana Supreme Court again took up the question of whether
Tyson Timbs of Marion should be able to get back the vehicle that police
seized after his arrest in 2013. Timbs’ case is back before Indiana’s top
court because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that the
Constitution’s ban on excessive fines applies to the states as well as the
General Thomas Fisher told the justices that seizure of the vehicle was
proper because it was used in commission of a crime and not a fine as part
of the criminal sentence.
questioned how they should draw the line on considering a seizure as
Justice Mark Massa
pondered whether seizing a 20-year-old car would be fine, while doing the
same with an expensive car would not.
“I think it would
be good for the court to avoid a legal standard that would encourage people
to drive their fancy cars to drug deals,” Fisher replied.
guilty and was sentenced to a year of house arrest but faced no prison time.
His biggest loss was the Land Rover he had bought with some of $70,000 in
life insurance money he received after his father died.
A Grant County
judge had ruled that taking the car was disproportionate to the severity of
the crime, which carries a maximum fine of $10,000. But Indiana’s top court
said the U.S. Supreme Court had never before ruled that the Eighth
Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to states.
Timbs, who has been
represented by the libertarian public interest law firm Institute for
Justice, has said he’s kicked his heroin addiction that began after being
prescribed hydrocodone for foot pain. The Indiana justices raised the
dilemma that Timbs not only drove the Land Rover to the drug deal for which
he was arrested, but also for thousands of miles on trips between Marion and
Richmond for the heroin buys that burned through the rest of the life
Lawyer Sam Gedge,
representing Timbs, argued Timbs shouldn’t be treated like a drug kingpin
and that allowing state officials to seize his only means of transportation
“They would treat,
under the excessive fines clause, Pablo Escobar the same way they would
treat Tyson Timbs,” Gedge said.
justices did not say how soon they expected to issue a decision.