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Asset Forfeiture in Minnesota | Civil and Criminal

policing for profit: police sports car
Policing for Profit

Forfeiture Attorney Thomas Gallagher provides tips for getting your property back. 

Find out how.  And call Attorney Thomas Gallagher for help at 612 333-1500.

Types of Asset Forfeiture Cases in Minnesota

Criminal Asset Forfeiture

In these cases the government seizes and forfeits private property from the owner, after a criminal conviction of the owner.

Minnesota forfeiture law & police
Minnesota forfeiture law & police

Sometimes we call this “Judicial Forfeiture.”  The  government may not keep the owner’s property until after the owner’s chance to challenge it before a judge.  But if the court grants the government’s request, the government keeps the property without paying.

A forfeiture attorney can help the owner recover their property in a criminal asset forfeiture case.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

The other kind involves the government seizing and forfeiting property from the owner, after just a paper notice.  But this puts the burden on the owner of filing a court challenge.  And that burden includes court filing fees and lawyer’s fees.

Sometimes we call this “Administrative Forfeiture.”  The government takes the owner’s private property with a brief notice of claims.  And there never will be a hearing in court, unless properly requested by the victim-owner.

So a property owner facing police seizure of their car, money or other assets, needs help from a forfeiture attorney.

Constitutional Issues in Asset Forfeiture Cases

Constitutional law influences these cases.  Forfeiture Attorney Thomas Gallagher outlines relevant constitutional provisions:

Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution
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Three issues:

  1. Double Jeopardy.
  2. Due Process Prior to Deprivation of Property.
  3. Taking of Private Property Only with Just compensation.

“No person shall be … deprived of … property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution

One issue:

  1. The government may not impose Excessive Fines.

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution

Two issues:

  1. Due Process Prior to Deprivation of Property.
  2. Equal Protection of the laws to all persons.

Section 1. “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall … deprive any person of … property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Minnesota State Statutes Authorizing Government Taking of Private Property

“Ironically, Minnesota’s General Asset Forfeiture Statute, appears just after Receiving Stolen Property‘ in the Minnesota Criminal Code.

Attorney Thomas C. Gallagher

When an average Minnesotan takes another’s property without paying for it, the laws define that as a crime. 

But when the police do it, they call it legal “Asset Forfeiture.”

Two Minnesotas:  Is this another double standard?  Why allow the government to exempt itself from its rules for the rest of us?

Minnesota’s general asset forfeiture statute

Minnesota Statutes § 609.531 is the general asset forfeiture statute.  Its language seeks to justify the legal remedy it gives government, and the burden it puts upon the common Citizen.

It gives broad authority to police to seize private property “associated” with a “designated offense” (other than “Controlled Substance” offenses.)  And it does so without lawful process or notice beforehand.

It provides that “forfeiture is a civil in rem action and is independent of any criminal prosecution…”

The law also sets a reduced, civil “clear and convincing” standard for the Government’s burden of proof.   Of course, the Private Property Owner had to properly challenge it, in time.

Minnesota’s Drug Forfeiture Statute
Did police steal your car?
Did police steal your car?

Minnesota Statutes § 609.5311 is the forfeiture statute for “controlled substances.”  

It provides a broad authority to the Government (police) to seize private property “associated” with a “controlled substances offense.” And it lists limits on that authority.

Your drug forfeiture attorney should be a criminal defense attorney with strong experience with drug cases, like Attorney Thomas Gallagher.

Judicial Forfeiture Statute

Minnesota Statutes § 609.5313 is the Judicial Forfeiture statute.  It states the procedure where the Government sues the Private Property, with notice to its Owner.

Under this statute, the Government does not get the Property unless it can first win a trial against the Owner.  Traditionally, due process of law requires a pre-deprivation hearing by a neutral and detached magistrate.

Administrative Forfeiture Statute for Drug Cases

Minnesota Statutes § 609.5314 is the Administrative Forfeiture statute for “controlled substance” cases.  The procedures the government must follow when seizing people’s property without judicial approval are in Minnesota Statutes § 609.5314.

The statute includes a loose definition of “associated property.” So this is its instrumentality justification for taking without compensation.

Minnesota forfeiture laws: Unequal justice?
Minnesota forfeiture laws: Unequal justice?

This statute also gives procedures for property owners to challenge the government’s “taking” their property.  So unless the Owner initiates a legal challenge after seizure by the Government, the Government can keep the asset.  And the owner’s legal challenge must be: “EXACTLY AS PRESCRIBED IN MINNESOTA STATUTES SECTION 609.5314, SUBDIVISION 3 …”

The deadline is: “Within 60 days following service of a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit under this section…”  This administrative law places the burden of initiating court action on the true owner.  And it does so with a short, sixty day statute of limitations. 

This is highly unusual in the law; and to the government’s benefit at your expense.

If the property owner properly challenges the administrative taking, the case converts to a judicial forfeiture.   But no administrative record exists for review by the court, just a summary seizure by police.

Legalized Corruption – Policing for Profit

“Who benefits?”

See our article: The Moral Peril of Minnesota Asset Forfeiture Laws.

Minnesota Statutes § 609.5315 sets forth the Disposition of Forfeited Property. So,70 percent of the money or proceeds must be forwarded to the appropriate agency…” i.e., the Police Agency that originally took the Private Property.

The law has a conflict of interest.  Money for the police department slush fund is more rewarding than improving public safety or liberty or justice.

Requesting Return of Seized Property under Minnesota Statutes § 626.04

Minnesota Statutes § 626.04 provides a procedure for the owner to ask return of seized property from police.

That law requires the return of the property within 48 hours of the written demand, exclusive of weekends and holidays.  But otherwise, the owner may file a Petition for the Return of the Property with the court.  And if the owner does, she will get a court hearing.

Asset Forfeiture Attorney Thomas Gallagher
Asset Forfeiture Attorney Thomas Gallagher

Note that this will not work if there has been an administrative forfeiture notice or proceeding.  And this procedure also won’t work if the property is evidence in a pending criminal investigation or case.   See the statute section for these and other exclusions.

You can download a form for the Petition from the Minnesota Courts website.

But consult a forfeiture attorney, such as Thomas Gallagher, first.

Question?

Call Forfeiture Attorney Thomas Gallagher about getting your property back at 612 333-1500

Check out our blog articles on Minnesota asset forfeiture.