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S|E DWI Blog #2 – DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Option for Innocent Owners

by Aug 13, 2015Criminal Defense Attorney, DWI / DUI

Sieben Edmunds Miller - DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Option for Innocent Owners Minnesota

Posted: August 13, 2015

Welcome to the second installment of the Sieben Edmunds DWI Blog Series! We’ll take a closer look at what an innocent owner, who did not commit a DWI offense, can do to get their vehicle back after it has been seized.

The state is permitted to forfeit a vehicle for certain DWI offenses. This gives the state the right to keep or sell your vehicle. The vehicle can be subject to forfeiture even if the vehicle owner did not commit the DWI offense.

According to Minnesota Statute 169A.63, the appropriate agency must notify the owner and driver of the vehicle of the seizure and intent to forfeit the vehicle within 60 days. After 60 days, the vehicle automatically becomes the state’s property. The notice will indicate that a claimant can file a demand for judicial determination of a forfeiture with the court.

What can an innocent owner do to get the vehicle back?

An innocent owner can get the vehicle back under certain circumstances by requesting a judicial hearing. The owner has the burden to demonstrate that certain factors exist that prevent the vehicle from being subject to forfeiture.  Minnesota Statute 169A.63, subd. 7 illustrates two circumstances when a motor vehicle is not subject to forfeiture.  An owner must 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.

Driving without a valid license, failure to produce proof of insurance, some driving restrictions, driving while impaired, underage drinking and driving, and consuming an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle are some situations when a vehicle is used “contrary to law.”

There are also limits to this option if the vehicle owner is a family member of the offender. A family member of the offender is presumed to know that any vehicle use is “contrary to law” if the offender has three or more prior impaired driving conditions.

We understand how frustrating it can be for your vehicle to be seized and subject to forfeiture. If your vehicle has been subject to forfeiture, let the experienced attorneys at Sieben Edmunds PLLC make sure your rights are protected. Contact us at 651-994-6744 for more information.

Stay tuned for the next installment in this DWI blog series.

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