Supreme Court strikes blow against states that raise revenue by hefty fines, forfeitures

Tyson Timbs holds a photo of his vehicle seized after a drug arrest/.Institute for Justice.

 

By Richard Wolf | USA TODAY

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that state governments cannot impose excessive court fees, fines and forfeitures as a means of raising money.

The decision, which united the court’s conservatives and liberals, makes clear that the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “excessive fines” applies to the states.

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just back in court after lung cancer surgery, wrote the majority opinion and announced it from the bench.

“The protection against excessive fines guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority,” Ginsburg wrote. Quoting in part from the court’s 2010 ruling that Second Amendment gun rights apply to the states, she said, “This safeguard, we hold, is ‘fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty.'”

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