In late November or early December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Timbs v. State of Indiana, a case that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines applies to state and local governments, just as it has applied to the federal government since 1791. The case involves the forfeiture of a $42,000 vehicle for a crime involving a few hundred dollars. The Indiana Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to only the federal government and does not apply at all to state and local authorities.
“Our client, Tyson Timbs, has already paid his debt to society,” said Wesley Hottot, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is representing Timbs. “He’s taken responsibility for what he’s done. He’s paid fees. He’s in drug treatment. He’s holding down a job. He’s staying clean. But the State of Indiana wants to take his property, too, and give the proceeds to the agency that seized it. As we explained in our merits brief, there are limits, and this forfeiture crosses the line. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling. This case is about more than just a vehicle; it’s about whether 330 million Americans get to enjoy their rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
Nineteen amicus (or “friend-of-the-court”) briefs have been filed thus far in Timbs. Among the more notable amici are:
- The ACLU, R-Street Institute, Fines and Fees Justice Center and Southern Poverty Law Center, which submitted a brief that examines the effect of excessive fines and fees on the poor, as well as the use of fees to raise revenue for the government.
- The American Bar Association’s brief examines how the Excessive Fines Clause protects equality of justice under the law.
- The Constitutional Accountability Center’s brief spotlights the history of the passage of the 14th Amendment, and abuse of fines and forfeitures in post-Civil War southern states.
- The DKT Liberty Project, Cato Institute, Goldwater Institute, Due Process Institute, Federal Bar Association Civil Rights Section and Texas Public Policy Foundation’s brief examines the abuses of forfeiture, fines, and plea bargaining.
- The Drug Policy Alliance, NAACP, Americans for Prosperity, Brennan Center for Justice, FreedomWorks Foundation, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and others’ brief examines the history of civil forfeiture and how it came to be.
- Three prominent scholars of the Eighth Amendment submitted a neutral brief that provides a deep dive into the history behind the Excessive Fines Clause, going back to Magna Carta.
- The Institute for Free Speech’s brief documents the danger of excessive fines for technical violations of campaign finance laws.
- The Juvenile Law Center and 40 other organizations filed a brief that chronicles the harsh effects of excessive fines on juveniles in the criminal justice system.
- The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund’s brief provide a history of the 14th Amendment and asks the Court to revisit cases where it declined to incorporate portions of the Bill of Rights against the states.
- The Pacific Legal Foundation’s brief documents abusive fines by state and local governments.
- A collection of scholars, represented by UCLA School of Law Professor Eugene Volokh, filed a brief that discusses how excessive fines impact the poor.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a brief that examines how state attorneys general and other state and local government agencies impose excessive fines on businesses to raise revenue and even for political reasons.
Opposition amici in the case are due October 11.
The Institute for Justice released a high-resolution video news release that recounts Tyson Timbs’ battle to get his vehicle back and to extend constitutional protections against excessive fines across the entire United States.
It is no secret that I was against Jeff Sessions being confirmed to be America’s top cop via President Trump’s nomination of him to be our Attorney General. There are many reasons for this and the most prominent, is his anti-freedom attitude toward drugs as he clearly has a strong, uninformed bias. He even wants to go back to the failed Nancy Reagan era of “Just Say No.” While failing to acknowledge that there are thousands of legal things available to Americans that harm them, he has chosen to demonize cannabis (marijuana).
While many Americans were out protesting the election of Trump, they should have been taking action by calling and writing their U.S. Senators to stop the nomination of Sessions, but few did. I predict Sessions is going to be the single worst person and impose the worst actions of any Trump nominees.
While failing to acknowledge there are thousands of legal things available to Americans which harm them, Sessions has demonized cannabis and recently said that it is “only slightly worse than heroin.” He is either lying, grossly misinformed or a complete idiot — one or more of the three. One does not have to smoke, vape or bake cannabis to be in favor of the freedom for others to use the plant. Nor does one have to use the plant to know the science behind the positive benefits of ingesting it.
One does not have to smoke, vape or bake cannabis to be in favor of the freedom for others to use the plant. Nor does one have to use the plant to know the science behind the positive benefits of ingesting it.
But for the Attorney General of the United States to make public statements which are clearly false is irresponsible. It has been scientifically proven that cannabis can help with a large number of ailments and as research continues, I believe we will find many more. Heck, even the federal government holds a patent showing the plant has health benefits.
And while there are many positive health benefits of ingesting cannabis, some choose to take it for fun and to help with their creativity — and it is their right to do so. It is their right to do so, for so long as I am not (or any taxpayer) footing the bill for any (if any) of its effects. What I, as a taxpayer am paying for today, is for the prosecution and jailing of millions of Americans who are not harming anyone else. This needs to end and many states have taken the steps to end this harmful domestic policy.
This needs to end and many states have taken the steps to end the failed “War on Drugs” yet we have a hard right Attorney General who apparently thinks the movie Reefer Madness is a documentary. Please, stop the madness!
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We have some great news that needs urgent action BY 5pm ET TUESDAY! We, with our lobbyist’s help, have found some champions in Congress to write a bipartisan “Dear Colleague” letter asking the DEA to slow down this process.
The letter asks, among other things, that the Director of OMB and Acting Director of the DEA delay a final decision on the placement of Kratom as a schedule I, provide ample time for public comment on this significant decision, and resolve any inconsistencies with other Federal Agencies regarding the use of Kratom.
So this is what we need you to do!!! Find your Rep here and e-mail them over the weekend! http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ Then use the number below to call YOUR representative first thing Monday morning. Tell them you are a responsible adult consumer of Kratom for help with ______ (ailment) and ask that they please contact Congressman Pocan’s office to sign-on to the Pocan/Salmon Dear Colleague letter on this issue.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Organizers of a march and rally in Lafayette Park here on September 13, 2016, presented the Obama White House with a “We The People” petition signed by 120,000 Americans opposed to a rushed and unjustified effort by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to effectively ban as early as October 1, 2016 a coffee-like natural herb that has been used safely for hundreds of years. Organizers of the protest event want the DEA to allow for a full and open comment period from medical experts and the public.
Under the ill-considered DEA action, the herb kratom would be placed on an emergency basis in the same drug classification as heroin and LSD, even though (1) there is no documented evidence of a kratom “public health threat” and (2) hundreds of thousands of Americans make use of the herb with no ill effect. For more information about kratom…
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Out this morning, July 8, 2016, from U.S. Term Limits President, Phil Blumel:
True to form, another career politician in Congress is preparing to be indicted on federal charges. These elected officials just can’t seem to keep their hands out of the cookie jar.
This time, it’s 12-term Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown. Brown frequently runs unopposed for re-election or wallops her only opponent by 30-40 points. Her district was one of the most gerrymandered in America before a judge ordered its “bizarre shape” be redrawn.
Now Brown will face charges regarding “One Door for Education,” a fraudulent charity which raised $800,000 for education, then only disbursed one student scholarship for $1,000. Meanwhile, the charity’s money was spent on lavish parties in Washington, D.C. and luxury skyboxes at NFL games. Lifestyles of the rich and elected, apparently.
According to the Florida Politics blog, Brown will continue to serve in Congress while under indictment. They cite a 2014 report by the congressional research service saying “there are no federal statutes or rules of the House of Representatives that directly affect the status of a Member of Congress who has been indicted for a crime that constitutes a felony.”
This raises a question for the American people: Why do members of Congress only leave office on occasion of indictment, retirement or even death? That is evidence of a broken system which protects the powerful and excludes everybody else. It must be fixed.
If Corrine Brown had faced the six-year term limit prescribed by the U.S. Term Limits amendment, she would have left the House of Representatives in 1999. Instead, she was given 17 more years to build power within the system and connections with special interests outside of it.
We need to clean up the corrupt mess in D.C. as soon as possible. It will require a grassroots army of volunteers pressuring state legislators to pass resolutions for the Term Limits Convention.
Are you ready to join this grassroots army to fight for term limits? Sign our Super Activist Sign-up Form by clicking HERE.
Thanks for your support,
U.S. Term Limits
It’s happened again. A nut went to a gun-free zone and engaged in a mass killing.
But let’s set aside the question of motive and ask the important question of why politicians and bureaucrats don’t want innocent people to have any ability to defend themselves (they’ve even adopted policies prohibiting members of the military from being armed!).
The invaluable Crime Prevention Research Center has already weighed in on the issue.
Since at least 1950, only slightly over 1 percent of mass public shootings have occurred where general citizens have been able to defend themselves. Police are extremely important in stopping crime, but even if they had been present at the time of the nightclub shooting, they may have had a very difficult time stopping the attack. Attackers will generally shoot first at any uniformed guards…
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Yesterday, January 6, 2016, Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced SPB 7046, related to penalties and fees, has been filed. The proposed legislation will dramatically reform the driver license suspension and revocation process in Florida, and follows a series of hearings by Senator Brandes in the Transportation Committee on the topic.
“Losing a driver license is a devastating penalty which most heavily impacts those with the least ability to afford it. For years the state has piled on driver license suspensions as an additional sanction for various non-driving related activity,” stated Senator Brandes. “This legislation will help thousands of Floridians who are caught in a relentless cycle of debt within the legal system. This bill will reduce a major burden on our courts from license suspensions, and it will give many Floridians a means to get back to work.”
The proposal follows media reports last year detailing the substantial number of driver license suspensions occurring annually in Florida. Following those reports, Senator Brandes and the Transportation Committee held several hearings and heard testimony by the State Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, elected Public Defenders, and various Clerks of Court. This proposal is a result of those hearings, and it is designed to radically reduce the number of suspended and revoked driver licenses. The bill establishes an alternative system for sanctions for the more than 1.2 million driver license suspensions annually.
SPB 7046 removes suspension and revocation penalties for certain non-driving-related offenses. Individuals who would have their licenses suspended today for many financial related issues will instead be issued a hardship license. The reform package also reforms a controversial surcharge in law for fines or fees which are sent to collections, and clearly establishes the right of a defendant in financial hardship to enter into community service as an alternative method of payment. Finally, the bill eliminates the felony criminal charge for a third or subsequent driving while license is suspended or revoked resulting from a defendant’s inability to pay a fine or fee.
During a time when the Delray Beach Police Department is working to improve community relations, they are sabotaging their own efforts by infuriating the locals and creating traffic hazards. Several times a day, police officers use their discretion on whether to pull over a car for a traffic violation. I know this because I have watched police ignore obvious traffic violations that happen right in front of them. That discretion should be measured by the safety risk that is created by a violator’s actions.
Although this post is going to pick on one aspect of the Delray Beach Police Department, in my opinion, the police department is run very well and quite frankly, the crime rate (crimes with actual victims) in the area described in this post is very low compared to many other local cities. This is not an “anti-police” blog post and is meant as a helpful suggestion for the Delray Beach Police.
Just three weeks ago I witnessed an unmarked police car (no lights or siren) speed past me (illegally) in an active school zone going South on Seacrest/NE 2nd Avenue; a marked Delray Beach Police car properly lit him up and went after him. I watched as the police officer pulled the car over on NE 22nd Street, just East of NE 2nd Avenue. They talked and joked for 2 minutes and the police officer let the unmarked car (likely a detective) go on his way. This was in an active school zone for which the unmarked police car sped through without any lights and was clearly not on a call. A local resident would not have been treated with the same jovial laughter from the police officer, but instead with a ticket cost in excess of $200 plus points on their license.
Last Saturday, October 3, 2015, between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., Delray Beach Police Officer Mitchell (#0947) sat in his patrol car at the low-traffic intersection of North Swinton Avenue and NE 22nd Street which is located in a residential area of the city by Unity School. This intersection has had only one minor accident in 2015, which resulted in minor injuries that did not give rise to concern for anyone needing to go to the hospital. So this is not a dangerous intersection.
Residents were awakened that morning by Officer Mitchell’s constant sound of his police car siren during the 7 times he pulled someone over for apparently not stopping at one of the intersection’s Stop signs. Mitchell spent the two hours pulling people over for not “properly” stopping at the intersection’s Stop signs by at least 3 seconds. One local resident who received a $166 ticket and wanted to remain anonymous, told me, “I stopped for 1 second instead of 3 at that sign and there were no other cars stopped or coming in any direction.” Although the city did not know at the time of this posting how much it collected from Officer Mitchell’s two hours, it is my understanding the city receives $75 for each of the traffic citations and if that holds true then Officer Mitchell raised $525 for the city, minus vehicle and his labor costs.
I took video of Officer Mitchell that morning pulling people over for not stopping properly at the Stop signs, and the video shows his actions created an even greater traffic hazard. As a result of him pulling people over, it forced dozens of vehicles to go in the opposite direction lanes of the roadway where traffic was coming at them. It was quite the scene during three of his 7 traffic stops. Those two hours Officer Mitchell spent did not increase safety in the city, it made that area’s street less safe. It also created ill-will between residents and the police force. For each hour Officer Mitchell or any police officer, spends on victimless “crimes” is an hour not spent on solving/preventing crimes with actual victims, such as rape, murder, burglary, assault, fraud, etc.
Perhaps most interestingly, I watched four police cars this week roll right through this same intersection, ignoring the Stop signs and acting as if they are Yield signs. Not one time did I witness a police officer stop for even 1 second let alone the 3 seconds Office Mitchell expected of drivers last Saturday morning. Delray Beach Police has their training center in the area and police cars roll through this intersection many times a day. Perhaps Delray Beach residents should start taking down police car numbers and give police officers traffic citations when the police blatantly violate the law.
This type of one set of rules for the police and one set of rules for the residents will not be tolerated and goes against Police Chief Jeffrey Goldman’s work to partner with the community in a positive way. Hopefully, moving forward, taxpayer money will be better spent on solving crimes with actual victims in Delray Beach rather than harassing residents when they are not creating a safety risk to the community.
Today, August 17, 2015, I ended my 3 1/2 year “protest” of RealID compliance with state issued drivers licenses. I had let my drivers license expire over three years ago and purposefully did not renew it as I feel the state is complicit with the federal government in violating our U.S. Constitution. This morning I begrudgingly gave up my 4th and 5th Amendment rights in exchange for the government not locking me up in a cage for years so I could travel on the roadways in America. Doing so was not an endorsement, but an act of choosing one’s battles. Although there are many intricate arguments one can make regarding the differences between traveling and driving, I will leave that to others. I have always been somewhat willing to have a driver’s license; however, like hundreds of thousands of Americans, I have not complied with Real ID until today. I do feel the process of driver’s licensing and vehicle registration could be managed much more efficiently.
While many states continue the fight, Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature folded years ago, immediately in complying with the federal law. The compliance deadline continues to be extended which is now at the year 2020 as other state governments valiantly continue their non-compliance. Are you Real ID’d? Like the Jewish population in Nazi Germany, your license is Real ID compliant if it has a gold star in the upper right corner.
For those unaware, Real ID is a federal law that, under the guise of fighting terrorism and illegal immigration, came about in 2005 where biometric and other data would be collected and stored. The cameras now used in Florida drivers license bureaus are highly technical facial recognition cameras which are as accurate as a fingerprint.
Some states have instituted a fairer program that allows their citizens to have a Real ID compliant driver’s license or one that is not Real ID compliant. For example, Nevada does it right, allowing its citizens to choose whether to get Real ID compliant license or a standard license. Floridians should have that same option. Four states (Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New York) as well as American Samoa are, so far, not complying with Real ID. Most, if not all Libertarians would agree that states should reject Real ID compliance.
If by 2020, one does not have Real ID compliant identification (passport or drivers license), then that individual will not be able to board an FAA controlled flight (commercial air travel) or enter a U.S. federal building. Though I think the federal government may make an exception if you are forced to testify via supoena or are forced to stand trial in a federal case.
On the positive side, they didn’t charge me a late fee and the lady that helped me was incredibly nice.