Minnesota recently changed its law regarding DUI vehicle forfeiture to protect people who loaned their vehicle to someone who later is arrested for driving under the influence. The original bill was sponsored by Rep. Marion O’Neill because she said the state was unfairly taking vehicles from innocent people who relied on their vehicles for work, school, and medical visits. Many people who were unaware their vehicle might be used unlawfully had in confiscated by police because a friend or relative was driving it when arrested for DUI.
6,722 MN vehicles confiscated in 2015
It is unknown how many of the 6,722 forfeited vehicles belonged to someone other than the person accused of DUI. The previous Minnesota Forfeiture Laws allowed police departments to confiscate vehicles used during various DWI crimes, even when the vehicle owner was completely innocent and unaware the alleged crime might occur. Most forfeitures were for First and Second Degree DWI offenses, but in some circumstances, it happened to people charged with a first offense DUI. Parents who loaned the family’s only vehicle to a son or daughter who was later charged with DUI would find themselves without essential transportation or much recourse in the matter. Rep. O’Neill told the Duluth News Tribune that the new law strikes an important balance between maintaining public safety and protecting the rights of innocent vehicle owners.
The reformed MN forfeiture law
Governor Mark Dayton signed the new Minnesota forfeiture law in early April of 2017. Police departments still have the right to seize vehicles used during DUI crimes, but vehicle owners now have the opportunity to go before a judge and present reasons why their vehicle should be returned to them. The judge can return seized vehicles to owners who were not driving their vehicle when the DUI crime occurred. A criminal defense lawyer can advise individuals charged with DUI of their rights and legal options. People falsely accused of DUI may still have their vehicle seized. Police officers can seize vehicles immediately at the time of arrest and keep it until the legal proceedings are resolved.
The arresting agency is required to issue a Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit of the vehicle to the person who was driving the vehicle, the vehicle owner, and anyone with a possessory interest in the vehicle. Claimants have 30 days from the Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit to file for a judicial determination of forfeiture.