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Minneapolis DWI Attorney Blog

Minnesota Supreme Court Limits DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Statute - Plain Language Prevails

On September 26, 2012, the Minnesota Supreme Court released  an important decision in the DWI vehicle forfeiture of  Patino v. One 2007 Chevrolet.  The Court applied the plain language of the DWI forfeiture statute and held that an owner is entitled to return of the vehicle if the alleged offender attends court and is not convicted of the "designated offense" triggering the initial forfeiture.  
 
Under the forfeiture statute, a "designated offense" is defined as First or Second Degree DWI/Test Refusal or any DWI/Test Refusal offense where the driver has a B-card restriction or is canceled inimical to public safety (IPS).      
 
The decision clears up the longstanding confusion arising from the Minnesota Court of Appeals 2007 decision in Matakoski, where the court of appeals ruled that a criminal conviction of the "designated offense" was not required to uphold the government's forfeiture of a vehicle. 
 
Matakoski was poorly decided because the plain language of the DWI forfeiture statute reads in relevant part:
 
"If the forfeiture is based on the commission of a designated offense and the person charged with the designated offense appears in court as required and is not convicted of the offense, the court shall order the property returned to the person legally entitled to it."
 
The Minnesota Supreme Court in Patino correctly overruled Matakoski, applying the plain language of the statute.  In Patino, the government initiated vehicle forfeiture based on charges of Second Degree DWI.  The defendant attended court and ultimately was convicted of Third Degree DWI, which is not a "designated offense" under the DWI forfeiture statute.  The owner of the vehicle sought judicial review of the forfeiture and argued, inter alia, that the vehicle must be returned based on the plain language of the statute.  The Court agreed, despite the government's insistence to the contrary. 
 
Patino is a victory for common sense and the protection of property rights.
 
 

8 Comments to Minnesota Supreme Court Limits DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Statute - Plain Language Prevails:

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Allen Rocco on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 4:44 AM
The trial court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that he could be charged under the statute, despite the obvious discrepancy.
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Jack on Thursday, August 15, 2013 11:08 PM
Such an important decision that was! I think Minnesota Supreme Court has given a neutral decision on DWI vehicle forfeiture and as a result I hope that everybody will be satisfied about that issue. Thanks
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Watson on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 5:06 AM
Fantastic content you have posted which is very informative to me as well. I must follow the discussion which is very essential to me as well.
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BillyC on Saturday, December 21, 2013 1:26 AM
I think it was a wise decision which clears up the longstanding confusion arising from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
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Bill on Saturday, December 21, 2013 1:27 AM
I think it was a wise decision which clears up the longstanding confusion arising from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
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dennis on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:59 AM
nice one man
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microsoft outlook e-mail on Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:51 PM
I'm happy Minnesota ruled in favor of Patina and upheald justice. In most third-world countries, this case would never have seen the light of the day, having been buried under tons of paper work. I never came across this article on the news but I sure am glad I read it here!
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Keith Welch on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 4:04 AM
Very nicely written post. I am relieved I came upon this site. Really it is very helpful for many people. Thank you for the nice and informative post.
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