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OH High Court OK's Forfeiting Man's Truck for Drunk Driving Offenses

An Ohio man who lost his entire fortune when police forfeited his car did not have his Eighth Amendment rights violated, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled. The decision by a split court severely weakens the protective power of the Excessive Fines Clause in the state, Forbes reports. On July 4, 2018, an Ohio State Highway trooper pulled over James O’Malley for suspected drunk driving. When asked for his license, O’Malley handed over a credit card. Unsurprisingly, he was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI). O'Malley pled guilty to the misdemeanor. He served 30 days in jail, had his license suspended for four years, and was ordered to pay the minimum fine of $850, plus court costs. Because he had two prior OVI convictions in the past decade, police cited a state law to seize his truck, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado.


Valued at $31,000, the truck was O’Malley’s “only significant asset” and his “primary means of transportation.” Not only did the Silverado account for O’Malley’s entire net worth, it was also personally valuable. His grandparents bought him the truck as a gift. That let O’Malley assist and take care of his grandparents; his grandfather was dying of cancer. In Ohio, the maximum fine for a third-time OVI offender is $2,750. In other words, O’Malley’s truck was valued at more than 11 times the maximum fine and 36 times the fine actually imposed. Based on that disparity, O’Malley argued that forfeiting the truck would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines. Still, the Supreme Court majority concluded that forfeiting O’Malley’s truck was “not grossly disproportional” to his crime.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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