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SCOTUS Just Made a Landmark Ruling that Reins in the Power of Government

February 25, 2019 - 8:00am
Mike Huckabee
Mike Huckabee

It got little attention on such a busy news day, but the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling last Wednesday for property rights.

The court unanimously ruled that the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines in cases of individuals charged or convicted of a crime applies not only to the federal government but also to the states’ seizure of property and other assets.

The particular case involved someone who was convicted for dealing drugs. Indiana authorities seized and auctioned off his Land Rover, even though it was not purchased with drug money, on grounds that he used it to commit crimes by driving it while dealing drugs (with that kind of tenuous connection, they could have seized his sneakers, too.)

He challenged the seizure, but the state Supreme Court ruled against him on grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court never explicitly said that the Eighth Amendment applies to states -- only to the federal government. Well, now they have. Talk about things that should have gone without saying!

Asset forfeiture laws were originally well-intentioned and meant to ensure that criminals didn’t profit from their crimes.

But over the years, some places started abusing them as a method of raising revenue by seizing and auctioning private property that had little or no connection with criminal behavior, leaving citizens with scant recourse or financial resources to fight it.

As this story notes, the lack of Eighth Amendment protections on the state level also led to abuses such as heavy fines for tiny infractions, such as using the wrong house paint colors or Halloween decorations.

During oral arguments of the case, Justice Breyer got Indiana’s solicitor general to admit that the state could conceivably seize someone’s car for driving five miles over the speed limit, which sparked laughter in the court.

This is a welcome and long overdue ruling. Too many young people (some of them recently elected to Congress) have no concept of the foundational importance of property rights. They seem fine with the idea of government being able to take as much of the fruits of other people’s labors as it wants, as long as it promises to “redistribute” other people’s money in the form of free stuff.

They need to learn the wise old saying that a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.

Mike Huckabee, a resident of Seaside, is a Christian minister who served as the governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007 and was a Republican candidate for president in the primaries of both 2008 and 2016.  This column appeared Sunday on


It's about time. US Constitution. 5th Amendment. .........nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. They have been violating the constitution for years.

I got ticket 17yrs ago for no seatbelt and proof of isurance in plainview arkansas. I thought ide paid it off. Total fine aprox. $450. Now after arkansas charged $10 month and they have no record of any payment...and who can prove they paid something that old without reciept. Now the fine is $2250. Over 4 times the original amount. Oh and they suspended my licence with no warning. I lost my job of 17yrs because I travel at work and no licence means no travel. Almost lost my home, did lose my car was paying on, and has caused nothing but anxiety for me from all the stress. I'm single gather of 4 kids and 1o grandkids. This effected the whole family.

Forgot to mention that I found out my licence was suspended when I was on way home with wife who just had surgery in little rock. Was pulled over for doing 52mph in 45mph zone. So now tack on $550 on top of $2250 for a grand total of $2800 all from clerk in court not keeping hood books. Day of court i talked to dozens who yickets was from 25yrs, 22trs, 15yrs, etc etc. City switched from paper to computer and this is out come.

Whether you're a drug dealer or not. Government should have NO authority to just take what they want, to satisfy a fine. That's an over extension of the Federal, Or state government.

Drug dealers shouldn't have any "property rights"!

you totally missed the point.

What if someone with a badge wrongly accuses you of being a drug dealer (even a very small one ) and starts stealing your hard earned things ? That is what due process and proportionality in this decision is all about . Huckabee point is absolutely correct , IMO.

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