The US Supreme Court ruled today that the 8th Amendment rule against "excessive fines" applies to the states as well as to the Federal Government:
The decision is a victory for an Indiana man whose luxury SUV was seized after he pleaded guilty to selling heroin. It is also a blow to state and local governments, for whom fines and forfeitures have become an important source of funds.
In an opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court seemed to regard the basic question before it as an easy one. The justices explained that the “historical and logical case for concluding that” the ban on excessive fines applies to the states through the 14th Amendment – which bars states from depriving anyone “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” – is “overwhelming.”
States and municipalities have relied on civil forfeiture laws for revenue over the past three decades or so, with ridiculous and horrifying results. Today's decision will go a long way to curbing those abuses.