By Adam Liptak
Feb. 20, 2019, 24
“WASHINGTON — Siding with a small time drug offender in Indiana whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by law enforcement officials, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the Constitution places limits on civil forfeiture laws that allow states and localities to take and keep private property used to commit crimes.
Civil forfeiture is a popular way to raise revenue, and its use has been the subject of widespread criticism across the political spectrum.
The Supreme Court has ruled that the Eighth Amendment, which bars “excessive fines,” limits the ability of the federal government to seize property. On Wednesday, the court ruled that the clause also applies to the states.
Previously, the Supreme Court had never squarely addressed that question. It had addressed the status of the Excessive Fines Clause, but only in the context of the federal government. The court had, however, previously ruled that most protections under the Bill of Rights apply to the states — or were incorporated against them, in the legal jargon — under the 14th Amendment, one of the post-Civil War amendments.”