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Changes to Minnesota’s DWI Forfeiture Laws: How They Affect Defendants

by Nov 1, 2022Criminal Defense Attorney, Dea Cortney, DWI / DUI

Recent changes to Minnesota’s property seizure laws aim to make it easier for defendants who are found not guilty to regain possession of property seized at the time of their arrest or during a lawful search. Property seizure is common in several types of criminal cases, particularly during DWI arrests. Defendants may lose their vehicle at the time of their arrest, which means they must contend with a loss of thousands of dollars worth of property and no reliable transportation. Changes to the law were made to offer innocent parties a clear path to getting their property back after a DWI arrest. Here’s how innocent parties can reclaim their property after their case is resolved.

Who Is Subject to Forfeiture?

Property can be seized by law enforcement in many scenarios. Defendants who have been charged with their third DWI offense in ten years and those who have been charged with first-degree DWI may both be subject to forfeiture. A vehicle must have been used in commission of the offense, meaning it must be the vehicle that was being driven at the time of the arrest. 

According to Minnesota statute 169A.63, subdivision 7, “There is a presumption that a vehicle is subject to forfeiture if: (1) the driver is convicted of the designated offense on which the forfeiture is based; or (2) the driver’s conduct results in a designated license revocation and the driver does not seek timely judicial review or judicial review is upheld.”

One major change to existing criminal forfeiture laws is the total elimination of law enforcement’s ability to seize property in certain cases. As of 2021, the law has eliminated forfeiture of property due to a first or second DWI offense, DWI DAC-IPS cases, and DWI B-Card cases. Additionally, the presumption of forfeiture when the defendant fails to appear in their criminal case has been eliminated. 

Reclaiming Property After A Seizure

New innocent owner procedures address due process problems in prior statute, making it easier for these individuals to regain possession of their property. Innocent owners may reclaim their property by following newly established procedures:

  • The innocent owner must assert their claim within 60 days.
  • Then, the prosecuting authority has 30 days to either return the vehicle or file a Civil Complaint against the vehicle.
  • A hearing is held within 30 days.
  • If the innocent owner prevails, they must pay the towing, seizure, and storage costs.
  • If the prosecution rejects the innocent owner’s claim and files the Civil Complaint, then you should file an Answer in a timely manner and follow the Rules of Civil Procedure.

If you are the innocent owner of property that was seized at the time of your DWI arrest, you’ll need to work with a criminal defense lawyer to follow the proper protocol to have your property returned. Contact Sieben Edmunds Miller’s experienced criminal defense attorneys to learn more about the process. 


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