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Was this application of forfeiture law grossly disproportionate?

| Jun 1, 2020 | Drug Crimes |

 An Indiana man with an opioid addiction was arrested several years back for selling a small amount of heroin to undercover cops. He was convicted on that charge and paid a price.

Specifically, he served a years’-long home detention and probation period. He also paid fees and court costs, as well as the money required to fund the police probe against him.

Oh, and there was this: State authorities seized his Land Rover vehicle – valued at nearly $42,000 and his only means of transportation – pursuant to Indiana’s civil forfeiture law. That law (like similar legislation in other states) allows officials to simply take assets from select convicted offenders. Its stated rationale is to punish high-level drug principals (e.g., cartel members and major traffickers).

An Indiana judge weighing in with a ruling earlier this month years after the seizure and following a series of post-conviction judicial challenges ordered the state to give the vehicle back. He termed the civil forfeiture confiscation a disproportionate response to the offense, being “more punitive than remedial.”

The court objected to the seizure owing to evidence clearly indicating that the defendant was no “drug kingpin.” The judge stressed that the taking was a misapplication of justice and a violation of the convicted individual’s constitutional rights.

Indiana’s attorney general called the ruling “misguided” and vows to appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.

We will keep readers informed concerning any material developments that arise in the matter.