The legal forfeiture of your vehicle or other property by the police can be a shocking experience. Property and vehicle forfeiture can also be an expensive experience. Property seizure of your car, boat, home, snowmobile or ATV can be costly both in terms of lost assets and in payments on property you no longer hold.
If your property has been seized, do not count it as lost forever. Do not accept explanations for why you cannot recover it. Instead, contact an attorney experienced in recovering forfeited vehicles and property. Contact criminal defense attorney Max Keller at the law firm of Max A. Keller, Attorney at Law.
We Are Skilled and Experienced in Recovering Seized Property.
Property and vehicle forfeiture most often seized in regard to DWIs and drug offenses, including manufacturing, distributing and possession. Legal defense and subsequent recovery of property is most effective when innocence can be proven. Automobiles seized in DWI and drug situations are often the property of innocent and uninvolved friends, parents or other family members. We can work to prove ownership and recover property.
Lose Car from DWI in Minnesota
DWI, felony drug possession, fleeing a police officer and other crimes can all result in vehicle forfeiture. If your vehicle was taken from you, it may be possible to get it back. The likelihood of this happening can be increased when you obtain help from Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys. If your car was associated with a crime — such as a DWI — then your car can be taken from you, even if you are not guilty of the charges. Vehicles are usually seized on the second, third or other occurrence of a DWI within 10 years. You only have a few days after the seizure of your vehicle to challenge the forfeiture — or you will lose your vehicle forever. So, call now for aggressive legal representation to get your property back for you.
In some situations, uninvolved family, parents and friends are affected by vehicle forfeiture. For example, the parent of a drunk driver could lose the car — even if the parent was uninvolved in the crime. Under Minnesota DWI forfeiture laws, there is protection for innocent owners. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court limits defense for innocent co-owners.
One of the collateral consequences of a DWI charge is vehicle forfeiture. Specifically, when a Minnesota driver is charged with a second-degree DWI or first-degree DWI, the vehicle used by the offender in the offense (i.e., the car, boat, snowmobile or ATV being used while supposedly driving drunk or over .08) is subject to forfeiture. Forfeiture means the government seizes the vehicle. Permanently.
Our Minnesota vehicle forfeiture attorney can also work to have your charges dismissed or have your sentenced reduced, with accompanying recovery of property. We can question police procedures, work for the suppression of evidence and argue for leniency based on clean criminal records and other factors of your personal circumstances. Pleading guilty to a lesser offense can also often lead to recovery of forfeited property.
Innocent Owner Defense
But what happens when an offender gets arrested for a DWI and the police try to seize the vehicle, but the vehicle belongs to someone else? For example: an individual allows his or her friend to use a car for the night; the friend gets arrested for DWI; the vehicle used by the friend but owned by the individual is seized. Can the individual get his or her car back? The answer is yes. The vehicle forfeiture laws allow for what’s called an “innocent owner” defense. Minnesota Statute § 169A.63 subd. 7(d) says:
(d) A motor vehicle is not subject to forfeiture under this section if its owner can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the owner did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the vehicle would be used or operated in any manner contrary to law or that the owner took reasonable steps to prevent use of the vehicle by the offender. If the offender is a family or household member of the owner and has three or more prior impaired driving convictions, the owner is presumed to know of any vehicle use by the offender that is contrary to law. “Vehicle use contrary to law” includes, but is not limited to, violations of the following statutes:
(1) section 171.24 (violations; driving without valid license);
(2) section 169.791 (failure to produce proof of insurance
(3) section 171.09 (driving restrictions; authority, violations);
(4) section 169A.20 (driving while impaired);
(5) section 169A.33 (underage drinking and driving); and
(6) section 169A.35 (open bottle law).
In plain English, what this means is that if the owner of a vehicle didn’t know the driver was going to get drunk and drive, then the owner can assert an “innocent owner” defense. The owner will need to come to court and prove to the judge that the owner didn’t know the driver was going to be driving drunk (or violating the law in any other manner listed above). If the owner can prove this to a judge, then the vehicle will be returned — even if the driver is convicted.
Joint Ownership of the Car
However, the innocent owner is not available in one notable circumstance: joint-ownership of the car. If two people, such as a husband and wife, are the joint owners of the car, and the husband gets a DWI without his wife’s knowledge, then the wife cannot be classified as an innocent owner. The Minnesota Supreme Court has said that under joint ownership, the owner of the car who didn’t commit the offense can’t raise the innocent owner defense. Instead, this person has to raise one of the other vehicle forfeiture defenses, such as a due process violation or an argument based on the motor vehicle exemption.
If your vehicle has been seized by law enforcement — whether you were charged with a first-degree DWI or second-degree DWI/DUI or are an innocent car owner — our law firm can build a strong defense on your behalf. We are instrumental in getting vehicles returned to the rightful owners.
Car Seizure? Talk to Our Law Firm.
Schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney who has extensive knowledge of Minnesota vehicle forfeiture laws. Call Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys at (952) 260-7533. You can also contact us online.