Ramsay Law Firm Wins Again: Judge Rules DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Law Unconstitutional

Posted On March 26, 2010 by Daniel Koewler

For years, Minnesota law has permitted the State to seize the vehicles of some arrested for DWI, sell them off, and keep the proceeds. This means that many of our clients come to us concerned not only about jail time, or loss of their driver's license, but also worried about the fact that the State is trying to permanently deprive them of their car, their SUV, their boat, or whatever motor vehicle they were operating when they were arrested.

There are serious concerns to be raised whenever the State gets into the business of seizing a person's private property for its own gain. When the police department and the prosecutor get to divide up the proceeds from selling off forfeited vehicles used by drunk drivers, the procedure starts to look less like it's about public safety and more like its all about generating revenue. However, what makes DWI forfeitures so bad â?? so bad that they are unconstitutional â?? is the fact that the police get to seize the vehicle immediately . . . and then completely prevent the driver from contesting the seizure in front of a judge. See Policing for Profit for more on forfeiture abuse.

The current forfeiture law does not permit a driver to contest the seizure of his vehicle until after his criminal case has been resolved. This can take years. Despite the fact that this law has been on the books for years, we recently addressed the constitutional problems with this scheme, and won. We had a client who had his vehicle seized over a year ago. While we've spent over a year fighting the criminal charges lodged against him (he was charged with "refusing| a breath test. In reality, the Intoxilyzer 5000 |refused| to accept his breath sample), his vehicle sat in an impound lot, depreciating in value while remaining exposed to the elements. Meanwhile, the State patiently waited for permission to sell it at auction and divvy up the spoils.

On our motion for summary judgment, the court ruled that the forfeiture law is unconstitutional, and the vehicle was ordered to be returned. By convincing the court that this law â?? a law that has been enforced for years â?? was unconstitutional, we took a bleak looking situation and ended up getting results for our client.

Winning a DWI case means winning the criminal case, the civil Implied Consent case, and sometimes, the vehicle forfeiture case. If you've been charged with a crime â?? especially a crime that resulted in a forfeiture of your hard-earned personal property - you'll need an attorney who knows how to defend all of your rights. That's when you need to call Charles Ramsay Law Office. Where other attorneys have given up, we can get results.

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