The Latest: Court likely to apply excess-fine ban to states

Law Journals

The Supreme Court seems very likely to rule that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to the states. The outcome could help an Indiana man recover the $40,000 Land Rover police seized when they arrested him for selling about $400 worth of heroin.

The court has formally held that most of the Bill of Rights applies to states as well as the federal government. But it has not done so on the Eighth Amendment's excessive-fines ban.

Justice Neil Gorsuch (GOR'-suhch) was incredulous that Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher was urging the justices to rule that states should not be held to the same standard. Gorsuch said Wednesday, "Come on, general."

Justice Stephen Breyer said under Fisher's reading police could seize a quarter-million-dollar Bugatti sports car if its driver is caught going 5 miles per hour (8 kilometers per hour) over the speed limit.

The Supreme Court is taking up the case of an Indiana man who says the Constitution should have barred local authorities from seizing his $40,000 Land Rover after his arrest for selling less than $400 in heroin to undercover officers.

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