Supreme Court and the Eighth Amendment
Since the Supreme Court unanimously decided the Eighth Amendment applies to the States and not just Federal cases, prohibiting excessive fines and fees especially when State agencies seek to seize property or other assets from individuals charged or convicted of a crime, Boeheim Freeman Law has been able to reduce or eliminate over $100,000 in fines for our clients.
The case before the Supreme Court, Timbs v. Indiana involved the seizure of a $42,000 Land Rover SUV from Tyson Timbs, who was arrested in 2015 for selling heroin to undercover police officers. He pled guilty and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and five years of probation. The Court suggests that it became excessive when the State of Indiana seized his Land Rover, which was purchased with his father's life insurance payout, not with the proceeds of drug sales. The State claimed that they could seize the vehicle because it had been used to commit a crime.
Rule 8 Hearings
At Boeheim Freeman Law, we have been moving the courts for Rule 8 Hearings on all plea deals. This is a hearing where the Judge inquires of the Defendant what physical injuries or ailments would prevent them from working. The Judge also inquires as to the Defendants ability to pay fines and costs due to indigence and pre-existing financial obligations. It is then determined whether, under the circumstances, the Defendant can pay or the fines would be considered excessive on-going punishment.
Conflict of Interest
Local government uses fines and fees as a means to raise revenue, and that creates a perverse conflict of interest between the bureaucracy and residents of the community. Timbs v. Indiana points out how ridiculous overly burdensome fines and civil asset forfeiture can be when abused. Many times the fines and the confiscation of property only hurts the families left behind when a defendant gets convicted and goes to prison. This inevitably propagates a cycle of crime, when a family is left with very few options and bills to pay.
Supreme Court Has Spoken
The Supreme Court and Justice Ginsberg have spoken: Excessive fines are unconstitutional, and civil forfeiture is an additional fine to those who are convicted. If you have been served with a civil forfeiture in connection with a criminal case, please give Boeheim Freeman Law a call at 918-884-7791 and let us help you fight for your constitutional rights.