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Indiana returns Land Rover seized in landmark civil forfeiture case
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Indiana returns Land Rover seized in landmark civil forfeiture case

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Indiana returns seized Land Rover in landmark civil forfeiture case

The state of Indiana on Tuesday returned the 2013 Land Rover LR2 it seized nearly seven years ago from Tyson Timbs, of Marion.

A white Land Rover LR2 seized by the state nearly seven years ago following its use in drug sales to undercover police officers totaling $385 was returned Tuesday to its rightful owner.

Tyson Timbs said it "was a weird feeling" to again see the vehicle in the driveway of his Marion, Indiana, home after legal wrangling over the 2013 SUV last year reached the U.S. Supreme Court and set a nationwide precedent that the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against excessive fines applies to both the federal government and the states.

"For years, this case has been important not just for me, but for thousands of people who are caught up in forfeiture lawsuits," Timbs said.

Court orders Land Rover returned as Indiana loses again in civil forfeiture lawsuit

Grant Superior Judge Jeffrey Todd last month ordered state officials to return the Land Rover after concluding forfeiture of the $41,558 vehicle was a grossly disproportionate sanction on Timbs following his guilty plea to one count of dealing in a controlled substance — a crime with a maximum possible fine of $10,000.

Todd observed seizing the vehicle did nothing to remedy the harm allegedly caused by Timbs' "victimless" crime, since the heroin he sold only was purchased by police and never used, and Timbs' also separately paid the costs of the police investigation.

More importantly, the judge said forfeiting the Land Rover "constituted a life-altering sanction" on Timbs as it was his only asset and made it difficult for Timbs to maintain employment and obtain treatment for his drug addiction.

"Forfeiture only makes it more challenging for people in my position to clean up and be contributing members of society," Timbs said.

The Indiana attorney general's office said it agreed to return Timbs' Land Rover while the attorney general is appealing Todd's ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court on the condition that Timbs maintain insurance on the vehicle and refrain from selling it.

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Wesley Hottot, who argued Tyson's case before the U.S. Supreme Court, said there's no need for a return trip to the state's highest court, which previously affirmed the seizure.

Indiana Supreme Court sets excessiveness standard for forfeiture of property used in crimes

"The state's relentless use of its forfeiture machine is — and continues to be — a profoundly unjust exercise of power, and it underscores that civil forfeiture is one of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today," Hottot said.

There is no timeline for a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court.

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