Senior Legislative Counsel and Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Office
This report examines the use of civil forfeiture in Minnesota, a state with unusually detailed forfeiture reporting, and finds that the state’s civil forfeiture system stacks the deck against property owners. Not only do law enforcement agencies receive a cut of the proceeds from property they take, but state law also makes it hard for people to win their property back.
From 2003 to 2010, forfeiture revenues in Minnesota jumped by 75 percent, even as crime rates declined. By and large, these revenues did not come from large busts of criminal kingpins: The average value of forfeited property was only about $1,000.
Worse, new data from late 2010 show that few forfeitures are reviewed by judges and property owners rarely challenge forfeitures, likely because of the small values involved and the daunting task of bringing a civil lawsuit.
This lack of judicial oversight and a strong financial incentive in forfeiture create a situation ripe for abuse.
Arlington, Va.—A newly released report from the Institute for Justice is the first to systematically examine Minnesota’s civil forfeiture practices, and it shows that law enforcement agencies netted almost $30 million from 2003 to 2010. The report also finds that forfeiture revenues grew 75 percent from 2003 to 2010. Under Minnesota’s civil forfeiture laws, law…