Supreme Court To Review Minnesota's DWI Forfeiture Statute

Posted On January 26, 2012 by Charles Ramsay

As we discussed late last year, the Minnesota Court of Appeals interpreted Minnesota's DWI Forfeiture Statute in a way that defended, rather than undermined, the rights of all vehicle owners. The court came to the common-sense conclusion that the government must return any forfeited vehicle if the driver is never convicted of the crime that gave rise to the forfeiture. The Supreme Court has officially granted review of this decision, meaning it is possible that this case will be overturned. How would this affect future drivers?

Here's an example: being charged with second degree DWI gives the government the legal authority to seize the vehicle being driven during the offense (regardless of who owns the vehicle). However, being charged with a DWI is not the same as being convicted of a DWI - and smart drivers will file a petition to challenge the vehicle forfeiture. That's because, under the current state of the law, beating the second degree DWI charge will mean that you should get your vehicle back. If the Supreme Court reverses the appellate court in this case, the situation could be turned on its head.

It's this question - whether the government can keep a seized vehicle even if you beat the DWI charges - that is about to be considered by the Minnesota Supreme Court. It will be very interesting to see how our Supreme Court decides the future of our faulty DWI forfeiture scheme.

UPDATE (April 3, 2012): DWI Automobile Forfeiture Case Set for Oral Argument.

UPDATE (February 12, 2012): The Minnesota Supreme Court has granted the motions of the MSCJ and MACDL to file an amicus curiae brief. See Supreme Court Grants Amicus Status in DWI Forfeiture Case.