Forfeiture: Hurry Up and Wait

Posted On July 12, 2010 by Charles Ramsay

This is part two of our two-part discussion of Minnesota's strange forfeiture scheme. At this point, you've been arrested for DWI. You haven't been found guilty (you haven't even been to court yet) but the State has already told you that it's taking your car. Forever. What can you do to stop this vehicle forfeiture?

Most people assume that they'll be able to take this case to court, where they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. That seems fair, right? Too bad that's now how forfeitures work.

You see, you're already presumed guilty when the State seizes your vehicle. Without any court hearing, merely on the say-so of the arresting officer, the State has seized your vehicle, and is likely planning on selling it off for profit.

Do you think this is unfair? Well, you have exactly thirty days to file a petition in court to contest this forfeiture - and you'd better be quick, because 31 days later you lose ALL RIGHTS TO YOUR VEHICLE. The criminal charges against you could be dismissed on the 31st day after your arrest, and the State would STILL keep your vehicle!

We hear this type of horror story far too often. A country that once fought a war to prevent government seizure of personal property no longer seems to care that the government routinely grabs the property of citizens for its own profit.

Ironically, even though you have less than a month to file a petition to get your car back, you won't even see a judge until after your criminal case is resolved - and unless you plead guilty, that could take a year or more (especially if you took a test on the awful Intoxilyzer 5000).

If this sounds like an unconstitutional get-rich-quick scheme, you're right. We're working hard to convince judges statewide that this scheme is blatantly illegal. Unfortunately, in order to even use this argument, we need to file a petition within 30 days.

Even if the arresting officer tells you that you don't have to show up for court for two months, don't wait. Failure to act promptly can result in the permanent loss of your vehicle (and your driver's license) - EVEN IF THE STATE DISMISSES THE CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST YOU.

Please read about part one of this blog post here.