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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Ray and Sondra Carroll appeal the judgment of the trial court ordering forfeiture of their truck. In their sole issue on appeal, the Carrolls contend the forfeiture of their vehicle, under Chapter 59, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, for trace amounts of methamphetamine, violates the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Although this court recognizes that Chapter 59 forfeiture is not punishment for Double Jeopardy purposes, the court applies the analysis of Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602 (1993), and United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321 (1998), to Chapter 59 forfeitures to determine whether such forfeiture constitutes punishment for purposes of the excessive fines clause. Chapter 59 forfeiture is closely tied to the commission of underlying crimes. The court holds that forfeiture in this case is sufficiently punitive to be subject to the excessive fines clause. Having determined that Chapter 59 is subject to the excessive fines clause, the court applies the Supreme Court’s proportionality standard de novo to the evidence surrounding the state’s forfeiture of the Carrolls’ truck to determine if such forfeiture is unconstitutionally excessive. Sondra’s offense is a state jail felony, with a maximum sentence of two years and a maximum fine not exceeding $10,000. However, in accordance with Texas Penal Code �12.44(a), she received a misdemeanor sentence. A reduction under �12.44(a) is authorized after considering, inter alia, the gravity and circumstances of the felony committed. Such reduction may be considered as an indication that the offense is not considered of sufficient gravity to be punished as a felony. “Contraband” subject to forfeiture under Chapter 59 is, with one exception, limited to underlying felony offenses. So while forfeiture would be available given the felony conviction, punishment as a misdemeanor seems inconsistent with forfeiture. However, assuming a felony punishment, the facts in this case do not allow the state to forfeit a truck valued in excess of $10,000. The amount of controlled substance involved was an extremely small amount, too small to be weighed or valued. There was no evidence that the truck in this case was used to distribute or sell controlled substances, or that it was repeatedly used to facilitate Sondra’s illegal use of controlled substances. There was no showing that any other offenses, except speeding, were involved in the case. The forfeiture of an $11,000 truck is, therefore, grossly disproportional to the offense under Bajakajian, and the court holds that the forfeiture in this case violates the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment. OPINION:Per curiam; McKeithen, C.J., Burgess and Gaultney, JJ.

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