discussion 2580

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Part 1:

Under current law, an unnamed state can seize property simply by establishing it was “connected” to a crime by “a preponderance of the evidence”. Preponderance of the evidence means” more “more likely than not”, which is far lower than the burden in a criminal case where the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. To obtain ownership of the property, the state can file a civil case. It is not required that the owner is ever convicted of an underlying crime. The owner must establish that she/he/it is an “innocent owner”. To win an innocent owner claim, property owners bear the burden of proving their innocence. All that the state has to prove is that it was more likely than not that a person committed a crime and that the property was either used in the crime or was purchased with the proceeds of “criminal activity”. If the property is forfeited, the police department which seized the property becomes the owner of the property.

You are the US Supreme Court for purposes of this part of the assignment. Assume that all provisions of the US Constitution apply to the states.

1. Set forth any and all US Constitutional provisions which may be violated by the above forfeiture situation and the facts which constitute the potential violation(s).

2. Set forth specific constitutional provisions for each of the potential violations and explain why these are violations. Also, set forth any counterarguments to your positions.

3. Vote on each potential violation. Majority wins.

4. Write a majority opinion agreed to by all members of the group. The opinion must state the legal reasons for each specific violation.

5. Feel free to elaborate on the general implications regarding the ownership of private property in the US if these procedures are constitutional and there is no limitation on amounts that may be forfeited.

Part 2:

Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. The trial court sentenced him to one year of home detention and five years of probation, which included a court-supervised addiction-treatment program. The sentence also required Timbs to pay fees and costs totaling $1203. At the time of Timbs’s arrest, the police seized his vehicle, a Land Rover SUV Timbs had purchased for about $42000. Timbs paid for the vehicle with money he received from an insurance policy when his father died. The State engaged a private law firm to bring a civil suit for forfeiture of Timbs’s Land Rover, charging that the vehicle had been used to transport heroin. After Timbs’s guilty plea in the criminal case, the trial court held a hearing on the forfeiture demand. The trial court held that Timbs’s vehicle had been used to facilitate violation of a criminal statute and should be forfeited to the state. Timbs argued that the maximum fine for the crime was $10000 and that forfeiting the vehicle constituted an “Excessive Fine” under the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution. The state argued that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to the states.

You are the US Supreme Court. Decide the following:

1. Should the excessive fines clause apply to the states? Set forth legal reasons as to how it could or should not apply.

2. Assuming that the Eighth Amendment does apply to the states and that the Indiana forfeiture laws were otherwise constitutional, was the forfeiture of a $42000 vehicle when the maximum fine for the crime was $10000 an “Excessive Fine” under the Eighth Amendment? Set forth legal reasoning for your conclusion.


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