State Tries And Fails 3 Times To Confiscate A Man’s Car, Chief Justice Compares It To ‘White Whale Moby Dick’

Screenshot via YouTube/Lexus of Edmonton

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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A man will not have to forfeit his Land Rover to Indiana after eight years of litigation, the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Tyson Timbs, a native of Marion, Indiana, was arrested in 2013 for selling four grams of heroin to undercover police officers. Despite his successful completion house arrest and drug rehabilitation, Indiana continued to attempt to seize Timbs’ car under the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws.

“Today’s ruling is an important victory for property rights across Indiana,” Sam Gedge, Timbs’ attorney, told the Indianapolis Star. “The State of Indiana has spent nearly a decade trying to confiscate a vehicle from a low-income recovering addict. No one should have to spend eight years fighting the government just to get back their car.”

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush compared the case to the Herman Melville novel “Moby Dick.”

Reminiscent of Captain Ahab’s chase of the white whale Moby Dick, this case has wound its way from the trial court all the way to the United States Supreme Court and back again,” she wrote. “We conclude that Timbs met his burden to show gross disproportionality, rendering the Land Rover’s forfeiture unconstitutional.” (RELATED: The 7 Most Egregious Examples Of Civil Asset Forfeiture)

In order for the state to seize Timbs’ car, it had to prove that taking it did not constitute an excessive fine. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2019 that the constitution prohibits states from collecting excessive fines. That case was also a win for Timbs.

The state Supreme Court ruled that seizing Timbs’ car constituted an excessive and disproportionate fine. Therefore, the state had to return it.

“The harshness of the Land Rover’s forfeiture was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the underlying dealing offense and his culpability for the vehicle’s corresponding criminal use,” Rush explained.

Timbs is just happy to have his car back.

“For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits,” he said in press release. “To me, the State’s refusal to give back my car has never made sense; if they’re trying to rehabilitate me and help me help myself, why do you want to make things harder by taking away the vehicle I need to meet with my parole officer or go to a drug recovery program or go to work? Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and be contributing members of society.”