A former heroin addict appears poised to win a major legal victory at the Supreme Court after a day of argument in which the justices appeared deeply skeptical of the case against him.
The case could have a substantial impact on the ability of states and cities to collect criminal fines and fees and to seize assets, a growing source of revenue for governments around the country. The fees, which often fund the court systems and police departments that extract them, fall disproportionately on minority populations and poor people.
Tyson Timbs pleaded guilty five years ago to selling a few hundred dollars' worth of heroin to undercover police officers in Indiana. A court sentenced him to one year of home confinement, five years of probation, and about $1,000 in fines and other fees.
They also took his $42,000 Land Rover. Timbs bought the car with some of the life insurance money he was issued following the death of his father. He spent the rest of the money, about $30,000, on heroin, using the Range Rover to shuttle it to Indiana from out of state.
On Wednesday, Timbs appeared at court to ask for the car back. He argued that he's protected from the seizure by the 8th Amendment's protection against excessive fines.
During an hour of argument, the justices appeared inclined to rule in his favor. That would move him one step closer to getting his car back — and deliver a victory to the bipartisan slate of civil society and business groups who supported him.