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Minnesota

Minnesota

Minnesota earns a D for its civil forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Higher bar to forfeit in limited cases: Weak conviction provision falls short of criminal forfeiture (see “The Problem with ‘Conviction Requirements’”) and applies only to judicial forfeitures. For property worth less than $50,000, the provision requires an owner to contest forfeiture, putting the burden on owners to engage in a costly legal battle and making it easy for the government to forfeit without a conviction. It does not require conviction of the owner, only of “a person,” and it does not apply if the person has agreed to help investigators to avoid criminal charges. Once the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Innocent Owner Burden

Poor protections for the innocent: Third-party owners must prove their own innocence to recover seized property.

Financial Incentive

Large profit incentive: In general, 90% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement; 60% in cases involving prostitution or human trafficking; 100% in DWI cases.

Recent Reforms

  • (2017) SF 151: Allowed innocent joint owners in DWI cases to challenge forfeiture in court.

Recommendations

  • End civil forfeiture
  • Direct all forfeiture proceeds to a non-law enforcement fund
  • Strengthen protections for innocent third-party owners
  • Close the equitable sharing loophole
  • Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements

State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019

Between 2000 and 2018, Minnesota law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $113 million under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $42 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $155 million in forfeiture revenue. Minnesota ranks 19th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state does not prevent state and local agencies from using equitable sharing to circumvent state forfeiture law.

At least $155 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
2000–2019

Year Minnesota Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 $1,527,765 $1,046,751 $89,000 $2,663,516
2001 $1,432,526 $1,348,423 $19,000 $2,799,949
2002 $1,705,349 $1,810,187 $2,000 $3,517,536
2003 $2,941,670 $1,133,648 $24,000 $4,099,318
2004 $3,476,866 $1,369,123 $7,000 $4,852,989
2005 $4,945,153 $1,930,861 $0 $6,876,014
2006 $4,484,783 $1,498,393 $434,000 $6,417,176
2007 $5,338,925 $1,960,561 $46,000 $7,345,486
2008 $4,052,661 $2,436,864 $7,000 $6,496,525
2009 $5,090,004 $3,020,632 $71,000 $8,181,636
2010 $3,961,368 $2,758,675 $235,000 $6,955,043
2011 $8,691,336 $1,929,775 $192,000 $10,813,111
2012 $8,830,564 $2,299,709 $81,000 $11,211,273
2013 $9,077,684 $1,802,910 $457,000 $11,337,594
2014 $9,849,772 $1,296,529 $555,000 $11,701,301
2015 $9,462,258 $2,155,604 $290,000 $11,907,862
2016 $9,271,242 $860,280 $48,000 $10,179,522
2017 $8,835,279 $2,106,285 $2,673,000 $13,614,564
2018 $10,045,669 $958,392 $30,000 $11,034,061
2019 Unavailable $1,863,220 $1,434,000 $3,297,220
Totals $113,020,874 $35,586,822 $6,694,000 $155,301,696

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

Minnesota's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

C+

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

F

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

B

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

F

For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.

Forfeitures Under Minnesota Law: Key Facts

Median Value

$607

From 2015 to 2018, half of Minnesota’s currency forfeitures were worth less than $607.

Property Types

From 2000 to 2018, 42% of Minnesota’s forfeitures were of vehicles.

Administrative vs. Judicial

From 2010 to 2018, at least 76% of forfeitures were initiated under administrative, not judicial, forfeiture procedures.

Expenditures

UNKNOWN

Minnesota does not report how forfeiture funds are spent.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

Property-level forfeiture data were obtained via public records requests to the Minnesota State Auditor and from the Auditor’s website. Calendar-year figures represent gross forfeiture revenues or the value of seized property. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.

Legal Sources

Standard of proof: Weak conviction provision does not require conviction of an owner, but only of “a person”—and only for forfeitures of property worth less than $50,000 and only when the owner files a claim. The provision does not apply if the government obtains “[a] person’s agreement to provide information” in exchange for a dropped charge. After the conviction provision is satisfied, property must be linked to the crime by clear and convincing evidence.

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.531, subd. 2–3, 6a(b), 6a(b)(2), 6a(d).

Innocent owner burden: Owner.

Minn. Stat. § 609.5311, subd. 3(d); Jacobson v. $55,900 in U.S. Currency, 728 N.W.2d 510, 519–20 & n.6 (Minn. 2007); Blanche v. 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix, 599 N.W.2d 161, 167 (Minn. 1999); see also Minn. Stat. §§ 609.5314, subd. 1(c), 169A.63, subds. 7(d), 9(e).

Financial incentive: 90% in general; 60% in cases involving prostitution or human trafficking; 100% in DWI cases.

Minn. Stat. §§ 609.5315, subds. 5, 5(a–c), 169A.63, subd. 10(b).

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