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State v. Timbs

Supreme Court of Indiana

November 2, 2017

State of Indiana, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
Tyson Timbs, Appellee (Defendant below).

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

         On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 27A04-1511-MI-1976

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Justin F. Roebel Deputy Attorney General.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE David W. Stone IV Stone Law Office & Legal Research Anderson, IN.

          SLAUGHTER, JUSTICE

         The State sought to forfeit Defendant's Land Rover after he used it to transport illegal drugs. The trial court held the proposed forfeiture would violate the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause. We conclude the Excessive Fines Clause does not bar the State from forfeiting Defendant's vehicle because the United States Supreme Court has not held that the Clause applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Defendant, Tyson Timbs, used life-insurance proceeds after his father's death to pay $42, 058.30 for a Land Rover in January 2013. Over the next four months, Timbs regularly drove the Land Rover between Marion and Richmond, Indiana, to buy and transport heroin. Timbs's trafficking came to the attention of a confidential police informant, who told a member of the Joint Effort Against Narcotics team that he could buy heroin from Timbs. Police set up a controlled buy, and the informant and an undercover detective bought two grams of heroin from Timbs for $225. Police made another controlled buy a couple of weeks later, acquiring another two grams of heroin for $160. During the second buy, the detective set up a third controlled buy with Timbs. The day the third buy was to occur, police apprehended Timbs during a traffic stop. The Land Rover had 1, 237 miles on its odometer when Timbs bought it in January, and more than 17, 000 miles when police seized the vehicle in late May.

         In June 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. Nearly two years later, in 2015, Timbs pleaded guilty to one count of Class B felony dealing and one count of Class D felony conspiracy to commit theft in exchange for the State's dismissing the remaining charge. The trial court accepted the plea and sentenced Timbs to six years, with one year executed in community corrections and five years suspended to probation. Timbs also agreed to pay police costs of $385, an interdiction fee of $200, court costs of $168, a bond fee of $50, and a $400 fee for undergoing a drug-and-alcohol assessment with the probation department.

         Within a couple months of bringing criminal charges, the State also sought to forfeit the Land Rover. After a bench trial, the court issued written findings that denied the State's action, concluding that forfeiture would be an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. "The amount of the forfeiture sought is excessive, and is grossly disproportional to the gravity of the Defendant's offense." The trial court observed that the maximum statutory fine for Timbs's Class B felony was $10, 000 on the day he was arrested and noted the vehicle was worth approximately four times this amount when he bought it just a few months earlier. The court made no finding about the vehicle's value on Timbs's arrest date. Based on its holding, the court ordered the State to release the vehicle immediately. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Timbs, 62 N.E.3d 472 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016). We granted transfer, thus vacating the Court of Appeals' opinion, and now reverse.

         Standard of Review

         Before addressing whether forfeiture of Timbs's Land Rover would be an excessive fine, we must decide the antecedent question of whether the Excessive Fines Clause applies to forfeitures by the State. Whether a Bill of Rights provision applies to the States is a purely legal question. We review such questions de novo. State v. Harper, 8 N.E.3d 694, 696 (Ind. 2014). Unlike legal questions, a trial court's factual determinations are reviewed for clear error. Fischer v. Heymann, 12 N.E.3d 867, 870 (Ind. 2014). We will not reweigh evidence or determine the credibility of witnesses, and we will consider only the evidence favorable to the judgment and the logical inferences drawn from it. Ind. Trial Rule 52(A); Hitch v. State, 51 N.E.3d 216, 226 (Ind. 2016).

         Discussion and Decision

         I.The United States Supreme Court has never enforced the Excessive Fines Clauseagainst the States, ...


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