The US Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered a unanimous blow to state law enforcement agencies that generate millions in revenue from the seizure of automobiles. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg authored the decision that found the seizure of a white 2012 Land Rover LR2, worth $41,558, from Tyson Timbs over a minor drug charge was excessive under the federal constitution.
In 2013, Timbs was at a low point in his life. His father had died, and the proceeds of a life insurance policy allowed him to buy the SUV. While suffering from a work-related injury, he became addicted to opioids — a habit that quickly escalated to heroin. As soon as the insurance money ran out, Timbs turned to selling small amounts of the drug to feed his addiction. He was caught selling $225 in heroin to undercover officers.
Timbs admitted his guilt to an Indiana judge and promised to turn his life around. He was sentenced him to one year of home arrest, five years of probation and $1203 in fines and fees. The state then moved to permanently confiscate the Land Rover under drug forfeiture laws. The maximum penalty under the law for the offenses Timbs committed was $10,000, but the SUV was worth four times that.