In Timbs v. Indiana, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines applies to the states. In the case, Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty to a minor controlled substance offense, but Indiana used civil forfeiture laws to forfeit his $42,000 SUV, which it claimed he had used to commit his crime. Timbs claimed the forfeiture was an excessive fine and violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The Excessive Fines Clause of that amendment had not yet been incorporated by—or applied to—the states. Timbs changes that. In her opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reasoned, "Like the Eighth Amendment's proscriptions of 'cruel and unusual punishment' and '[e]xcessive bail,' the protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government's putative or criminal-law-enforcement authority." She noted the prohibition on excessive fines traces its lineage to the Magna Carta. Justice Ginsburg also recounted that "[f]ollowing the Civil War, Southern States enacted Black Codes to subjugate newly freed slaves and maintain prewar racial hierarchy" by imposing "draconian fines for violating broad proscriptions on 'vagrancy' and other dubious offenses." The framers of the Fourteenth Amendment sought to thwart such abuses, which further supports the notion that the right is incorporated against the states. "In short, the historical and logical case for concluding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming." Justice Clarence Thomas agreed with the result, but wrote separately to justify the incorporation based not on the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause as Justice Ginsburg had, but on its Privileges and Immunities Clause.
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