Supreme Court Rules Eighth Amendment's Protection Against Excessive Fines Applies to the States
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
TIMBS v. INDIANA
Held: The Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
Pp. 2–9. (a) The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause incorporates and renders applicable to the States Bill of Rights protections “fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,” or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 767 (alterations omitted). If a Bill of Rights protection is incorporated, there is no daylight between the federal and state conduct it prohibits or requires.
Pp. 2–3. (b) The prohibition embodied in the Excessive Fines Clause carries forward protections found in sources from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights to state constitutions from the colonial era to the present day. Protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history for good reason: Such fines undermine other liberties. They can be used, e.g., to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. They can also be employed, not in service of penal purposes, but as a source of revenue. The historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is indeed overwhelming.
Pp. 3–7. (c) Indiana argues that the Clause does not apply to its use of civil in rem forfeitures, but this Court held in Austin v. United States, 509 U. S. 602, that such forfeitures fall within the Clause’s protection when they are at least partially punitive. Indiana cannot prevail unless the Court overrules Austin or holds that, in light of Austin, the Excessive Fines Clause is not incorporated because its application to civil in rem forfeitures is neither fundamental nor deeply rooted.
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