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9-0: SCOTUS Delivers Devastating Decision To State Sponsored Seizure Schemes

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The Supreme Court has just put the clamps on states’ ability to impose excessive fines and use civil asset forfeiture to seize private property.

On Wednesday February 20, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the Eight Amendment’s ban on excessive fines also applies to states. This landmark ruling bolsters property rights and could curtail controversial law enforcement seizures, especially those carried out via civil forfeiture.

In the decision, Timbs v. Indiana, the Supreme Court sided with small time drug offender Tyson Timbs, whose $42,000 Land Rover was seized by law enforcement officials. Civil asset forfeiture is one of the most controversial methods used to raise revenue across the nation. However, it has garnered considerable criticism from political figures across the political spectrum.

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In a previous case, Austin v. United States, the Court ruled that the Eight Amendment, which is clear about its prohibition of “excessive fines”, limits the federal government’s ability to seize property. Timbs v. Indiana now extends those limits to the states.

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For once, Justice Ruth Ginsburg gets it right.  She wrote:

“The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming.”

Ginsburg drew from Anglo-American legal traditions to rule in Timbs’s favor:

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

She also presciently noted the potential abuse that excessive fines engender:

“Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.”

If only she applied such reasoning to other cases where she has let judicial activism get the best of her…

Anyways, this decision is a welcome development for criminal justice.

Civil asset forfeiture reform is gaining traction nationwide. States like Arizona, Nebraska, and New Mexico have led the way in signing civil asset forfeiture reform into law.

Now, the North Dakota Legislative Assembly is considering a bill, HB 1286, which requires that a criminal conviction be obtained before any forfeiture is carried out, and then mandates that proceeds from the seizure go to a general or school fund instead of going directly to a police department’s budget. This bill would also close the “equitable sharing” loophole, which allows law enforcement agencies to bypass strict state forfeiture laws by passing these cases off to the feds.

In times of high political polarization it’s great to see the Supreme Court come to a unanimous decision on civil asset forfeiture. This is one issue that should unite people from all sides of the political aisle.

 

 

 

 

 

Big League Guns

Democrats Introduce Expanded Background Check Legislation

Democrats are going to implement a background check which targets “extremism.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and California Congressman Mike Thompson brought forward legislation on March 2, 2021 that aims to broaden the federal background check system on firearms sales, according to a report by The Hill.

Under The Background Check Expansion Act,  gun sales and purchases between all unlicensed sellers and buyers would be subject to a mandatory background check. The background checks would not be applicable for law enforcement officers, lending out firearms for the purpose of hunting, temporary transfers for self-defense, or family members gifting a firearm. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 43 Senate Democrats have co-sponsored this bill. Thompson, who is the chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, reintroduced this legislation in the U.S. House

“For years, the bipartisan House-passed background checks bill languished in the Senate under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, with Senate Democrats in the Majority, we have the opportunity to act on this overwhelmingly popular, lifesaving legislation to protect American communities,” Schumer declared in a press release.

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According to a CBS News report, President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass stiffer gun control laws. This gun control bill will not pass so easily given how it will need 10 Republican senators to vote in favor of it.

Against the backdrop of the January 6 storming of the Capitol, such a background check will likely feature provisions that target so-called “extremists.” The ruling class has routinely lumped average gun owners with domestic extremists and will most certainly use recent events to justify encroachments on people’s right to bear arms. 

Biden is a veteran of the gun control movement, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. With Democrats in control of all branches of the federal government, they will certainly move to pass gun control. However, their success is not guaranteed due to moderate Democrats like Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Joe Manchin not being completely receptive to radical gun control that could alienate them from their more right-wing constituents.

Nevertheless, the Left has shown that it’s willing to act regardless of the political context. Keeping this in mind, gun owners must be ready to beat back any kind of gun control coming from D.C. Such fights will allow the Right to rebuild its forces and make a splash in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential race. 

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