Forfeiture and Impoundment

Below is an overview of the forfeiture and impoundment process in Minnesota District Court. Read through our Definitions tab for commonly used words, and read through our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for more information about the forfeiture and impoundment process. The Forms tab will help guide you to the forms packets that are available.
 

What is forfeiture?

Forfeiture is the process that a state agency uses to seize (take) property from an owner after someone is arrested, charged, or convicted of a specific crime. Usually this happens when someone is arrested by law enforcement for driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of controlled substances (drugs) or alcohol or after fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle. The motor vehicle and other property can be seized. Your property, including cash, could also be seized during a drug arrest/raid. Forfeiture of property is a civil issue that is separate from any criminal charges that may have been filed against someone.

Do I need file anything with the court?

If you received a Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit and you want to get your property back, you may need to file paperwork with the court. Sometimes law enforcement or the prosecutor in the criminal case can release the property to you. If you are able to get the property released, then you would not need to file paperwork with the court. You will need to file paperwork with the court if you are unable to get your property back from law enforcement or the prosecutor.

For more information about forfeiture, see the FAQs.

Administrative Review

The process to ask a non-court agency to review your case and decide whether the action taken by the agency that seized the property was appropriate. Cases that involve license plate impoundment may be administratively reviewed by the MN Department of Public Safety (Driver and Vehicle Services).

Forfeiture

The process that a state agency uses to seize property from an owner after someone is charged, arrested, or convicted of a specific crime.

Impoundment

The process of taking property away from an owner for a certain period of time. To get the property back, there may be fees that have to be paid. Typically, when impoundment happens in a forfeiture case the MN Department of Public Safety (Driver and Vehicle Services) has impounded your license plates, which can limit your ability to use your motor vehicle.

Implied Consent

The ability of the MN Department of Public Safety (Driver and Vehicle Services) to revoke your driver’s license. They can revoke your driver’s license if you were found to be driving, and you failed or refused to take the test to check for drugs or alcohol in your system.

Innocent Owner
The owner of a motor vehicle that was seized while someone else was driving. In order to claim this defense, the owner must not have had any knowledge that the vehicle would be used to break the law or tried to stop the vehicle from being used to break the law. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.63 Subd. 7(d).
Judicial Review

The process to ask the court to review your case and decide whether the action taken by the agency that seized the property was appropriate.

Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit

The name of the notice that is given to the owner of property after a seizure has happened. This notice is given by the law enforcement agency that took the property.

Prosecuting Authority

The city or county attorney’s office that brought criminal charges against someone for the drug- or alcohol-related offense that led to the seizure of property.

Seizure

Taking property from an owner.

Why was my property seized?

For certain alcohol-related offenses, Minnesota law says that vehicles can be seized by law enforcement and forfeited. For certain controlled substances (drug) violations, Minnesota law says that controlled substances (drugs) and associated property can be seized by law enforcement and forfeited.

What property can be seized?

If the offense is related to alcohol, your motor vehicle can be seized.

If the offense is related to fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, your motor vehicle can be seized.

If the offense is related to drugs, Minn. Stat. § 609.5314 allows for the following property to be seized by law enforcement and forfeited:

  • All money, precious metals, and precious stones found near the drugs;
  • Drugs;
  • Drug manufacturing or distribution equipment or devices;
  • All vehicles with a value of over $100 or more if you are being charged with a felony under Minn. Stat. ch. 152;
  • All firearms, ammunition, or firearms found in the vehicle being used to commit a felony drug violation under Minn. Stat. ch. 152, near you when you were arrested, or on the premises where drugs were seized.
What if I was not the person driving at the time that my vehicle was taken by law enforcement?

If your vehicle was being driven by someone else while they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, law enforcement can still seize it. Sometimes you may be able to get your property back. You would have to work with law enforcement and/or the city or county prosecutor to get your property returned, and you may have to file paperwork with the court to ask a judge to order the property returned to you. If you need help trying to get your property back, you may want to consider getting legal advice.

How long do I have to file my paperwork with the court?
If your property (i.e. motor vehicle, cash, etc.) was seized or your license plates were impounded, you have 60 days from the date of receiving the notice to file paperwork with the court.
Where do I file my forfeiture paperwork?
You must file your forfeiture paperwork in the county where the seizure happened. See Minn. Stat. §169A.63 Subd. 8(e).
Will forfeiture be handled in my criminal case?

No, forfeiture is a separate civil process. If you are being charged criminally, the purpose of the criminal case is to decide if you have broken the law and what the consequences may be. If you have an attorney representing you in your criminal case, that attorney may or may not be able to help you with your forfeiture case. It is a good idea to ask your criminal attorney whether they can help you ask for your property to be returned.

If I am never charged criminally or the criminal charges are dismissed, will my property be automatically returned?

Unknown. Even if your criminal case is dismissed or you are never charged criminally, this does not mean that your property will automatically be returned to you.

What happens if my property is forfeited?

If you file paperwork with the court and the court does not order your property to be returned to you, then the government now owns your property. The government would also likely own your property, if you do not file anything. The property can be used for the government’s official use, destroyed, or sold. You will not get any property or money returned to you.

What if my license plates were impounded?

If the license plates on one motor vehicle were impounded, the plates on all the vehicles that you own or co-own will also be impounded. You can file a petition to ask the court to review the decision. If the court does not return your plates to you, you may be able to ask the Department of Public Safety (Driver & Vehicle Services) to give you Special Registration Plates. These plates would allow you to continue lawfully use your motor vehicle with some restrictions.

What if my driver’s license is being revoked for implied consent?

If your driver’s license is being revoked for implied consent, the MN Department of Public Safety (Driver and Vehicle Services) is taking away your ability to legally drive. If you want the court to review the decision to revoke your license you could file a petition with the court. If you need help with this process, we strongly encourage you to get legal advice.

 

How do I know who to serve with my forfeiture paperwork?

If you file forfeiture paperwork, you need to serve a copy of your paperwork on the other party or parties in your case. Who the other party or parties are depends upon your individual circumstances.

Drug Offense or Raid:

  • If the property was seized for a drug offense or raid, you need to serve the county attorney’s office in the county where the offense happened.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) or Fleeing a Police Officer:

  • If the total value of the property is $15,000 or less, there are at least two different parties that need to be served. The first party that needs to be served is the city or county attorney in the city where the offense happened. Deciding which office needs to be served (either the city attorney or the county attorney) depends upon the level of offense you have been charged with in your criminal case. If you or the driver of the vehicle have been charged with a felony, then you need to serve the county attorney. If you or the driver of the vehicle have been charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, you generally need to serve the city attorney (there may be some exceptions). The second party that you need to serve is the arresting agency for the underlying criminal case (agency that did the seizure). This would typically be some sort of law enforcement agency.

  • If the total value of the property is more than $15,000, you need to serve the city or county attorney in the city where the offense happened. Deciding which office needs to be served (either the city attorney or the county attorney) depends upon the level of offense you have been charged with in your criminal case. If you or the driver of the vehicle have been charged with a felony, then you need to serve the county attorney. If you or the driver of the vehicle have been charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, you generally need to serve the city attorney (there may be some exceptions). The second party that you need to serve is the arresting agency for the underlying criminal case (agency that did the seizure). This would typically be some sort of law enforcement agency.

We strongly encourage you to talk to a lawyer if you are unsure who to serve in your case.

The forms that you use depend upon the value of the property seized and why the property was seized. To choose the correct forms, first answer the questions below, then select your packet of forms. The packet of forms will include all the forms you need to complete as well as instructions. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

Property Seized Due to a Drug Offense or Raid or Fleeing a Police Officer:

Property Seized Due to Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI):


 
The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that relate to forfeiture cases. We encourage you to talk to a lawyer to get advice on how the laws and rules may affect your case. Learn more about Laws, Rules & Legal Research.
 

Driver and Vehicle Services – Motor Vehicle Forms, Documents, and Tax Manual – Forms published by Driver and Vehicle Services that relate to motor vehicles, including a form for Administrative Review of License Plate Impoundment Order.

DWI-EZ Reference Guide for Enforcing Minnesota DWI Laws – Information about when your property may be seized and potential criminal consequences for DWI cases.

License Plates – Special Registration Plates – Information about how to apply for Special Registration Plates after your plates have been impounded, so that you can continue to lawfully drive your motor vehicle.