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Man's Quest to Get Land Rover Back Reaches Supreme Court

The case involves the Bill of Rights
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2018 2:16 PM CST
SCOTUS May Help Drug Dealer Get His Land Rover Back
In this Aug. 13, 2018, file photo, Tyson Timbs poses for a portrait at his aunt's home in Marion, Ind.   (Jenna Watson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

(Newser) – 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. 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. More from the AP:

  • 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.

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  • Justice Stephen Breyer said under Fisher's reading police could take the case of a driver caught going 5mph above the speed limit. "Anyone who speeds has to forfeit the Bugatti, Mercedes, or special Ferrari, or even jalopy," Breyer said. Fisher agreed.
  • 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.
  • The story of how Timbs ended up in the Supreme Court began with steel-toed boots he bought for work in a truck factory. The boots hurt his feet, but he couldn't immediately afford the insoles he was told to buy. A doctor wrote a prescription for hydrocodone. Before long, Timbs was hooked on heroin. A more than $70,000 life insurance payout he received after his father's death seemed a blessing, but it wasn't, he said. "A drug addict shouldn't have a whole lot of money," said Timbs, who used some of the money to buy the Land Rover.
  • Timbs' criminal sentence included no prison time, a year of house arrest and five years on probation. A decision in Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. Indiana, 17-1091, is expected by June.
(Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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