Dayton Signs Bill Updating MN Vehicle Forfeiture Laws for DWI

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed into law a new bill limiting the government’s ability to seize automobiles in DWI cases.

Representative Marion O’Neill of Maple Lake authored the legislation covering MN vehicle forfeiture laws after seeing the need to prevent innocent people from having their vehicles taken away.

Under how state law was previously, authorities could confiscate owners’ cars and trucks, even in instances where someone else other than the owner was driving the vehicle at the time of the DWI arrest.

“For spouses or family members who did not know their vehicle would be used unlawfully, it is problematic for the state to confiscate it from them,” remarked O’Neill, according to a report from the Governor’s office.

Innocent owners, meanwhile, may still have to go to court in order to make sure their vehicles aren’t forfeited in the aftermath of such incidents.

“This reform reflects the important balance between public safety and the rights of innocent vehicle owners,” said Governor Dayton.

Vehicle forfeitures related to DWI do not usually occur during first offenses, but are more common during third and fourth-time offenses when drivers are caught again within 10 years of facing their last DWI.

2009 Case – Driving Without Permission
One notable case that helped the bill, otherwise known as Chapter 12, SF 151, pass occurred in 2009. At the time, the adult son of Kristin Brown was arrested for DWI after driving her SUV with his mother’s permission. It took around five months to have the vehicle returned to the family.

6,722 vehicles were forfeited alone in 2015, with 3,000 being related to DWI, according to the Minnesota State Auditor’s office.