By Martin Kaste
Tyson Timbs won his Supreme Court case in February, but he still doesn’t have his Land Rover.
“I want my truck back, I’ve always wanted it back,” says Timbs, whose Land Rover was seized by police in Indiana. They took it after he was arrested for selling a small amount of heroin to undercover cops; he served a period of house arrest and probation for the drug crime, punishments he accepted.
But Timbs never accepted that police were also entitled to his $42,000 vehicle, which he’d bought with proceeds from an insurance settlement.
“I thought it was kind of ridiculous that they could take my vehicle so easily,” he says.
And yet this kind of confiscation is common. Called “civil asset forfeiture,” it was developed as a law enforcement tactic in the drug war of the 1980s. Authorities use the lower standard of proof of civil law to take property — usually cars or cash — based on the suspicion it’s associated with crime. In Timbs’ case, police suspected he’d used the Land Rover to transport heroin. Since the tactic was developed, billions of dollars of assets have been seized this way.
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