Supreme Court rules against ‘excessive’ seizure of property by states

by Melissa Quinn
February 20, 2019

A constitutional provision prohibiting the imposition of excessive fines extends beyond the federal government to states and cities, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The high court’s unanimous decision expanding the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause delivered a victory to an Indiana man who challenged the state’s seizure of his $42,000 Land Rover. The ruling means in states and cities — like the feds — the amount of the forfeiture must bear some relationship to the gravity of the offense that it is designed to punish.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who returned to the bench for the first time since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December, wrote the opinion.

“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Ginsburg wrote.

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