Today, the Institute for Justice provided us with a press release, which includes updates on the legal battle Tyson Timbs has been fighting for the last seven years. The Institute for Justice and its lawyers are currently representing Timbs in front of the Indiana Supreme Court.
In 2013, Tyson Timbs of Marion was arrested for unknowingly selling four grams of heroin to undercover police. Timbs pleaded guilty in court to selling the drug, which led to him spending a year on house arrest, and he also had to pay $1200 in court fees.
In addition to house arrest and paying fees, Timbs also had his newly-purchased Land Rover confiscated by the state. Timbs fought the confiscation by making the argument that it was a disproportionate penalty for the crime he committed.
Grant County Judge Jeffrey D. Todd sided with Timbs in court, saying that the confiscation of the vehicle was unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment’s Excessive Fine’s Clause. According to the Institute for Justice, Judge Todd said:
… the State sought forfeiture of [Tyson’s] only asset; an asset he purchased using life insurance proceeds rather than drug money, and a tool essential to maintaining employment, obtaining treatment, and reducing the likelihood that he would ever again commit another criminal offense.
As mentioned by Judge Todd, Timbs purchased the Land Rover in 2013 with a life insurance pay-out, following the death of his father.
After seven years of fighting to get his vehicle back, Timbs had the car returned to him yesterday, May 26th, 2020. However, the battle is far from over: the Indiana Attorney General has now appealed the case, so it will be brought before the Indiana Supreme Court for a third time, despite the fact that Timbs has worked hard to get sober and turn his life around over the last seven years.
The Institute for Justice is representing Timbs in front of the Supreme Court. Senior Attorney Wesley Hottot of the Institute for Justice says:
Tyson’s case has gone through every level of the American judicial system—in some instances, twice… The State’s relentless use of its forfeiture machine is—and continues to be—a profoundly unjust exercise of power, and it underscores that civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today.
Given the prolonged and drawn out battle, Tyson Timbs was himself surprised when he found his vehicle had been returned to him yesterday. Timbs said, “It was a weird feeling today. I didn’t believe that the vehicle would be mine again until I got home and saw it in my driveway.”
Nevertheless, it seems Timbs is hoping his case won’t just help him but also other offenders who find themselves having property unconstitutionally confiscated by the state.
For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits… To me, the State’s refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they’re trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my parole officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and be contributing members of society.
We will keep an eye on this case and it heads before the Indiana Supreme Court for a third time, and we will bring you any updates as they become available.