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State v. Timbs

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 20, 2016

State of Indiana, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2, Appellees-Defendants.

         Appeal from the Grant Superior Court 1 The Honorable Jeffrey D. Todd, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 27D01-1308-MI-92

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Justin F. Roebel Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE David W. Stone IV Stone Law Office & Legal Research Anderson, Indiana

          Mathias, Judge.

         [¶1] The State of Indiana filed a complaint for forfeiture in Grant Superior Court seeking to obtain a 2012 Land Rover LR2 owned by Tyson Timbs ("Timbs"). The trial court ruled in favor of Timbs, and the State appeals, presenting one issue, which we restate as whether the trial court erred in concluding that forfeiture of Timbs's vehicle would constitute a constitutionally excessive fine.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶3] In January 2013, Timbs purchased a Land Rover LR2 ("Land Rover") for the sum of $42, 058.30 from a dealer in Indianapolis. Timbs paid for the Land Rover with life insurance policy proceeds that he received following the death of his father. Thereafter, Timbs began to use this vehicle to drive from Marion, Indiana to Richmond, Indiana for the purposes of purchasing heroin. Timbs also used the Land Rover to transport the heroin back to Richmond.

         [¶4] In May 2013, a confidential informant ("CI") told a member of the Joint Effort Against Narcotics ("JEAN") team[1] that he could purchase heroin from Timbs. The police then set up a controlled buy, and on May 6, 2013, an undercover detective and the CI met Timbs at an apartment.[2] The detective gave the CI the purchase money, and the CI went inside the apartment with Timbs and returned with two grams of heroin that he had purchased for the previously agreed-to price of $275.

         [¶5] The police set up another controlled buy on May 22, 2013, to take place at a local gas station. This time, the undercover detective purchased two grams of heroin from Timbs for a price of $260. After this transaction, the detective spoke with Timbs about arranging yet another purchase of heroin. However, on the day this controlled buy was set to take place, the police instead apprehended Timbs during a traffic stop.

         [¶6] On June 5, 2013, the State charged Timbs with two counts of Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance and one count of Class D felony conspiracy to commit theft. On August 5, 2013, the State filed a complaint for forfeiture, seeking to obtain Timbs's Land Rover.

         [¶7] On April 12, 2015, Timbs entered into a plea agreement with the State whereby he agreed to plead guilty to one count of Class B felony dealing in a controlled substance and Class D felony theft in exchange for the State dismissing the remaining charges. The following day, the trial court accepted the plea and sentenced Timbs pursuant to the agreement to six years, with one year executed in community corrections and five years suspended to probation. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Timbs also agreed to reimburse the JEAN team $385 for the cost of the investigation and pay a drug abuse, prosecution, and interdiction fee of $200; court costs of $168; a bond fee of $50; and a $400 certified court program fee after undergoing a drug and alcohol assessment with the probation department. The complaint for forfeiture remained pending.

         [¶8] On July 15, 2015, the trial court held a hearing on the forfeiture complaint. At the hearing, Timbs argued that forfeiture of his Land Rover, which he claimed was worth over $40, 000, constituted an excessive fine, given that he had only dealt drugs twice, that he was only convicted for one count of dealing, and that the maximum statutory fine for his crime was $10, 000. The trial court took the matter under advisement and, on August 28, 2015, entered an order in favor of Timbs, which provided in relevant part:

7. The State now seeks a judgment against the Defendant for forfeiture of the Land Rover; a vehicle that just five (5) months before it was seized had a fair market value of almost four (4) times the maximum monetary fine of $10, 000.
8. The Court finds that the judgment of forfeiture sought by the State violates the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The amount of the forfeiture sought is excessive and is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the Defendant's offense.
9. While the negative impact on our society of trafficking in illegal drugs is substantial, a forfeiture of approximately four (4) times the maximum monetary fine is disproportional to the Defendant's illegal conduct.
Judgment is entered in favor of the Defendant and against the State. The Land Rover LR2, at issue, is ordered released to ...

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