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PRESS RELEASE: Heartland Institute Experts React to Supreme Court Ruling Against Excessive Fines as Penalties

February 20, 2019

“State and local governments have increasingly been using fines and asset forfeiture to pad their budgets without imposing taxes directly. It is a cowardly and unconstitutional way to raise money while dodging responsibility for it.” - S.T. Karnick

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that states cannot impose excessive fines as criminal penalties as described in the Eighth Amendment. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion. This is a direct blow to the abuse of civil asset forfeiture guidelines that some state law enforcement agencies have made common practice.

The following statements from experts at The Heartland Institute — a free-market think tank — may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland expert on your program—please contact Media Specialist Billy Aouste at media@heartland.org and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 847/445-7554.


“State and local governments have increasingly been using fines and asset forfeiture to pad their budgets without imposing taxes directly. It is a cowardly and unconstitutional way to raise money while dodging responsibility for it. The Supreme Court was right to strike down these excessive fines as unconstitutional.

“In their concurring opinions, Justices Thomas and Gorsuch make an important point regarding how the Bill of Rights should be applied to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. It is crucial that the nation’s highest court use the right reasons in making its decisions, something it has neglected terribly for the past several decades. We need more justices like Thomas and Gorsuch.”

S.T. Karnick
Director of Publications
The Heartland Institute
skarnick@heartland.org
312/377-4000


“The Constitution’s prohibition against excessive fines in the Eighth Amendment recognizes the fundamental freedom of Americans to be free of arbitrary government action. The unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in this case is a ringing declaration that the individual rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights must be respected by the states as well as the federal government.”

Joe Barnett
Research Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
Managing Editor, Budget & Tax News
The Heartland Institute
jbarnett@heartland.org
312/377-4000


The Heartland Institute is a 35-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.

Author
S.T. Karnick is the director of publications for The Heartland Institute.
skarnick@heartland.org
Author
Joe Barnett is a research fellow and managing editor of Budget & Tax News, a publication of The Heartland Institute
jbarnett@heartland.org