A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has cast doubt on the nationwide practice of local law enforcement agencies seizing private property of citizens that is allegedly associated with criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture, while allows law enforcement officers to take cash and other property from individuals, even if the individuals never are convicted of a crime or ever face criminal charges. Once law enforcement seizes these assets, owners of the property must take legal action to get their property back; in many cases, the property owners never regain their property.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans excessive fines, applies not only to federal government agencies, but also to state government agencies. As a result, local courts nationwide who are considering the constitutionality of civil forfeiture now must determine whether the seizure of a particular asset is excessive or highly disproportionate to the criminal activity in which it was allegedly involved.
Critics of civil forfeiture have long accused law enforcement officials of utilizing it as a mechanism to obtain revenue at the expensive of the public. Justice Ginsburg highlighted this criticism in her decision, identifying civil forfeiture as a source of revenue as opposed to mean of punishing criminal activity.
The recent Supreme Court ruling stemmed from the case of Tyson Timbs, an Indiana man who pled guilty to selling $225 worth of heroin to undercover police officers. Law enforcement officials then seized Timbs’ $42,000 Land Rover, which Justice Ginsburg noted was worth more than four times more the maximum fine of $10,000 that Timbs could have faced for his criminal offense. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court after the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against Timbs. If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights. Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.