Minnesota Motor Vehicle Forfeitures
The driving laws of Minnesota are among the most stringent in the country resulting in serious implications for the offenders as well as owners of vehicles driven by DWI defendants. In order to determine how best to proceed it is important to consider all the short-term as well as long-term repercussions of a DWI charge. Some of the sanctions and penalties of a DWI charge can affect not only the driver but also the owner of the vehicle:
- Significant jail time
- Huge fines
- Revocation of driver’s license
- Confiscation of license plates
- Motor Vehicle forfeiture
The fact that a DWI arrest, without even a conviction, can lead to the seizure and permanent forfeiture of a vehicle is reason enough to find a qualified and committed DWI defense attorney to defend the case. If you or anyone you care about, has been stopped and arrested for DWI, especially when vehicle forfeiture is involved, you need to consider the professional services of a talented DWI attorney. Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm has a reputation for exploring all the possible options for getting forfeited vehicles returned to their rightful owners.
Motor Vehicle Forfeitures in Minnesota
The motor vehicle forfeiture laws in Minnesota are very exacting and one can face vehicle forfeiture even in the first instance of a DWI arrest depending on the circumstances. Vehicles and other property (even houses) may also be forfeited in relation to many drug offense arrests. A vehicle is subject to forfeiture if the driver is arrested for a 2nd degree (or more serious) DWI charge or a drug charge. Other circumstances exist in which a driver with a history of several DWI incidents may have a vehicle forfeited even on a less serious DWI arrest. Vehicles are also commonly forfeited based on an arrest for Fleeing Police in a motor vehicle.
The problem in Minnesota is that the car is seized first and unless the rightful owner acts immediately to get the car back the police will get to keep the vehicle without regard to any defenses the owner or driver may possess. If a lawsuit is not filed within 30 days on a DWI forfeiture and 60 days on a drug forfeiture the property will never be returned, even if the owner or driver is completely innocent. The lawsuit is a petition for judicial review.
Right to Judicial Review
In the case of motor vehicle forfeiture, the Minnesota laws allows an individual the right to judicial review, which grants a district court judge the authority to decide whether the forfeiture of the vehicle was reasonable or not. There are many defenses available at such a hearing including the fact that the driver or alleged violator is actually innocent of the allegations. Even if the alleged violator is not actually innocent it is often possible to show a violation of that person’s constitutional rights which results in the evidence of guilt being suppressed and the return of the forfeited property. There are a whole host of other possible defenses based on applications of specific statutes also resulting in the owner of the property regaining the item.
One of the most useful defenses is that of the “Innocent Owner”. If a vehicle, for example, is titled in the name of someone other than the driver/ criminal defendant or if there are multiple persons on the title the owner who is not the driver may use the defense of being an innocent owner. For example; the owner of the vehicle says, my husband borrowed my car and I did not know he was going to get drunk and drive it home. In this scenario a good attorney can argue to the court that the state may not deprive the woman of her car merely because her husband did something wrong. She is an innocent owner.
There are many versions of this defense, but the common theme is that someone other than the criminal defendant owns the property or is at the very least a co-owner of the property and that co-owner did nothing wrong and had no reason to know that the defendant was going to commit the crime. The strength of this defense is that it applies even when the driver/defendant is not innocent and even when there are no constitutional or statutory defenses available to that person. As noted above it is crucial that an individual challenges the forfeiture within the specified time limit. The dedicated lawyers at Caplan & Tamburino Law Firm are well versed in the many nuances of DWI and other Forfeiture law. This knowledge assures you of a complete defense to the forfeiture which explores every possible avenue of relief available under the constitution as well as the statutes and the innocent owner defense.
Call now for a free consultation! 612-564-4372.