On Tuesday, May 6, 2014, Governor Mark Dayton signed a new forfeiture bill into law that requires a criminal conviction of a drug crime before the government can take any property associated with the crime. The law will go into effect on August 1, 2014.
Under the current law, law enforcement have the authority to seize property immediately if it is suspected the property is related to drugs, even if no criminal charges are ever filed. Law enforcement can seize cash, vehicles, firearms, jewelry, and other property if they merely suspect the property is somehow connected to illegal narcotics. Once the property is seized, the property owner must file suit in district court within 60 days, or they give up their property rights. Unfortunately, filing a case to challenge a forfeiture typically requires payment of significant filing and attorney’s fees to ensure there are not any procedural or legal errors in the case filing.
Furthermore, the current law creates an incentive to seize and forfeit property even if no criminal charges are filed as law enforcement can receive 90% of the value of property to supplement their budget. To the surprise of no one, this law has led to some newsworthy law enforcement misconduct, including the circumstances surrounding the disbanding of the Metro Gang Strike Force and the multimillion dollar settlement that followed.
Read the entire bill signed by Governor Dayton here.
Coley Grostyan is a Minnesota drug defense lawyer who fights for his clients in challenges to government seizure and forfeiture of property.