The US Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause to the states.
The case, Timbs v. Indiana, centered on a civil forfeiture after authorities arrested Tyson Timbs on drug and conspiracy to commit theft charges. Authorities confiscated Timbs’ Land Rover, which he had purchased for $42,000. The value of the Land Rover was four times as much as the maximum fine allowed by Indiana law ($10,000). The Indiana Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment was not enforceable to the states and therefore the forfeiture was allowed.
When Timbs appealed to the US Supreme Court, Indiana argued that the Excessive Fines Clause should not be incorporated to the states in cases of civil in rem forfeitures. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said such an argument misunderstood the court’s incorporation inquiry.
In considering whether the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates a protection contained in the Bill of Rights, we ask whether the right guaranteed-not each and every particular application of that right-is fundamental or deeply rooted.
Indiana’s suggestion to the contrary is inconsistent with the approach we have taken in cases concerning novel applications of rights already deemed incorporated.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas both concurred in judgment but wrote separately to claim that the appropriate means of incorporating the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause was via the Fourteenth Amendment’s Privileges and Immunities Clause, not the Due Process Clause.