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Supreme Court rules unanimously to limit fines issued by state and local government

RBG delivers first opinion since cancer surgery
Posted at 11:01 AM, Feb 20, 2019

The Supreme Court unanimously held on Wednesday that the 8th Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, in addition to the federal government

The opinion was written and delivered from the bench by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her first opinion issued since her cancer surgery in December.

Ginsburg was present for oral arguments in the case, which took place in late November.

"Like the Eighth Amendment's proscriptions of 'cruel and unusual punishment' and '[e]xcessive bail,' the protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government's punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority," Ginsburg wrote in her opinion.

The ruling is a victory for an Indiana man who had pleaded guilty in state court for drug dealing and conspiracy to commit theft. His Land Rover was seized because it was used as part of the crime. He argued that the seizure of the car, worth $42,000, was excessive.

"The biggest implications of today's ruling are likely to be felt in civil forfeiture cases, in which state and local governments will now have to confront an important additional limit on the value of property that they can seize that is not directly part of a criminal sentence," said CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck.

"Given that the same limits already apply to the federal government, and the widespread concerns over the proliferation of civil forfeiture in certain states, it's not especially surprising that the justices ruled this way -- or that they were unanimous in doing so," Vladeck added.


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