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By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — When Tyson Timbs was convicted of selling heroin to undercover police officers in Indiana, he was sentenced to a year of home detention and five years of probation. But the state also took away his expensive car.

On Wednesday, he’ll urge the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the same provision of the U.S. Constitution that prevents the federal government from imposing excessive fines also applies to the states.

One of the central reasons for adopting the Constitution was to restrict the power of the federal government. For that reason, though it may seem surprising, the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government when it was enacted.

Over time, the Supreme Court has ruled case-by-case that most of those protections also apply to the states. The most recent example came in 2010 when the court said the Second Amendment restricts state gun control efforts as well as federal ones.

Even so, the court has yet to apply a few remaining provisions to the states, and the Eighth Amendment’s ban on excessive fines is one of them. The amendment’s other two restrictions, forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and banning excessive bail, have been declared to restrict state authority as well.

Both sides in Wednesday’s case agree on the facts: Timbs became addicted to an opioid prescription for persistent foot pain. When that supply ran out, he turned to drug dealers and eventually to heroin. To pay for his addiction, he began dealing heroin and was arrested after he twice sold to undercover police officers.

The police said he used his car to facilitate the drug deals — a $42,000 Land Rover that he bought with money he received from his father’s life insurance policy — and the state instituted a forfeiture lawsuit to take it away from him.

Timbs fought to keep the vehicle, and the judge said the punishment of losing his car would be “grossly disproportionate” to the seriousness of his offense, given that the value of the Land Rover was more than four times the maximum fine for the drug conviction. But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines doesn’t apply to the states.

The lawyers for Timbs say it should apply, for the same reasons the Supreme Court has cited in applying other constitutional provisions to the states — that the right is a fundamental liberty interest and is deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions.

Indiana argues in response that even if the ban on excessive fines applies to the states, the restriction should involve only personal fines that a person has to pay, not on the seizure of property used to commit a crime.

Civil liberties groups, led by the ACLU, urge the court to rule for Timbs. They say the past 30 years have bought an unprecedented rise in fines, fees and forfeitures “driven by a quest to generate revenue and to fund state and local justice systems.”

The penalties have hit low-income people especially hard, often causing them to lose their jobs and their homes, the groups say.

After hearing courtroom argument on Wednesday, the court will issue its decision by the end of the term in late June.



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Brexit latest: When will MPs vote on May's Brexit deal? What are the odds on her winning?

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THERESA May announced her Brexit deal after months of tough negotiations, but the hard part is not yet over as Parliamentarians have yet to approve or reject the deal. But when will MPs vote on May’s Brexit deal and what are the odds on her winning the vote?

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‘Tariff man’ leads voter realignment on trade

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By Dante Chinni and Sally Bronston

WASHINGTON – This week President Trump’s tough talk on trade made news and roiled markets, but the political impacts are harder to characterize. A close look at the issue shows Trump’s role as “a tariff man” follows two of the main rules that have come to define his presidency: It is aimed squarely at his Republican base and it helps to redefine the GOP on an important issue.

A cursory, high-level look at the poll data on trade shows a rare area of agreement in 2018 America. Numbers from the Pew Research Center suggest that Americans love trade.

Trade with other countries

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say “trade with other countries” is a good thing for the United States. That kind of agreement is hard to find on any topic, particularly one that’s in the news as much as trade.

And more surprising, that solid level of support holds steadily across partisan lines.

Support for trade

More than 80 percent of Republicans say trade with other countries is good for the United States. That number is lower among Democrats, but only by 10 percentage points. Large majorities of both parties say they are strong believers in trade.

There have been shifts on the issue over the past decade. Back when Barack Obama was president, Democrats felt more positive about trade than Republicans did. The big bump in the GOP number coincides with Trump winning the White House – perhaps suggesting that Republicans more fervently believe in trade now that their dealmaker president is at the helm.

That’s where the divides begin to appear. Trade may be a little five-letter word, but it means different things to different people. People may like it in the abstract, but from there, opinions diverge sharply on how policy around it should be conducted.

Consider the Trump administration’s increases in tariffs and fees. Overall, 53 percent of Americans think they are a bad idea, according to data from Pew, while only 38 percent think they are a good idea. But dive a bit deeper and the well-known 2018 partisan splits become apparent on trade.

Tariffs on other countries

About three-quarters of Republicans say the administration’s recently increased tariffs and fees are good for the United States. On the other side of the spectrum, Democrats are even more strongly opposed. More than 80 percent say those tariffs and fees are bad for the country.

And behind the GOP tariff support is a familiar list of demographic groups that have come to make up Trump’s base: white men, men over 50 and those without a bachelor’s degree.

Support for tariffs

All those groups are above the national average for supporting the tariffs.

Perhaps even more important than those demographic differences, however, are the repercussions the tariffs could have on the electoral map. When you look at support around the country, one region, in particular, lights up.

Tariffs on other countries

The tariffs are most popular in the Midwestern states. People there are fairly evenly divided on them with 43 percent saying they are good for the country and 48 percent saying they are bad. Keep in mind that the Midwest is still the soul of manufacturing in the country and that it is home to the industrial states that ultimately were crucial to Trump’s 2016 win: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The point here is even with a large amount of agreement on “trade” there are still big disagreements on trade policy and Trump’s approach to it. And, in a larger sense, these numbers offer yet another sign of how the president seems to be changing the two parties.

The Pew data suggest that the Democrats, the party that once favored protectionist trade policies, have become “free traders.” Meanwhile, Republicans who one cherished the label “free trader” are more interested in tariffs aimed at bringing better deals with foreign countries – what detractors call protectionism.

Go back a few years in American politics and those positions would have been shocking. In 2018, they are simply par for the course.

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Will May survive as PM in 2019? Who could be the next Prime Minister after May?

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THERESA May lost her Commons majority in an embarrassing defeat at the 2017 snap election. And she could be facing another defeat as MPs are set to decide the fate of her Brexit deal on Tuesday. But after so much backlash, will Mrs May survive as Prime Minister in 2019 and who could be the next Prime Minister?

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