On Wednesday, in a unanimous decision the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines applies to state and local governments. The case, Timbs v. Indiana, dealt with an individual who had a $42,000 vehicle seized from them through civil forfeiture proceedings after pleading guilty to drug dealing charges, even though the maximum criminal penalty for such a crime was just $10,000.
While New Jersey’s own Constitution has a provision banning excessive fines Wednesday’s ruling now makes it possible for defendants to challenge forfeitures as excessive under the U.S. Constitution. Since New Jersey law regarding excessive fines is similar to those at the Federal level it is not yet known what, if any, impact the Timbs decision will have in the Garden State.
You should review this decision with your municipal attorney for more information on its potential impact in your municipality.
Contact: Frank Marshall, Esq., League Staff Attorney, firstname.lastname@example.org, 609-695-3481, x137.