An Important Decision On Fines And Forfeitures

The United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose fines and seize property.

The opinion states “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. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court in Timbs v. Indiana, No. 17-1091. Justice Gorsuch issued a concurring opinion. And Justice Clarence Thomas issued an opinion concurring in the judgment. You can access the oral argument via this link.

 

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