U.S. Supreme Court ruling puts focus on seizure of property from criminals

February 21, 2019 05:48 PM

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling is bringing attention to the practice of seizing property from criminals.

On Wednesday, the high court ruled to limit states' ability to seize private property. It comes after police seized an Indiana man's $40,000 car in connection to his arrest on $400 worth of heroin.

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In Minnesota, the State Auditor tracks forfeitures and seizures.

During the most recent year data is available for, 2017, law enforcement in Minnesota completed 7,852 forfeitures. The net proceeds from the sale of property and seized cash totaled $7,040,458.

The Minnesota State Patrol completed the most forfeitures in 2017 with 1,308. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Enforcement Division completed 476 forfeitures and the Dakota County Drug Task Force completed 180 forfeitures.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office handles civil forfeiture cases for the law enforcement agencies within its jurisdiction. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he doesn't expect much to change in Minnesota in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

"This is drug money," Freeman said. "These are people who didn't get this cash by going to work every day. They got it by selling drugs, and they shouldn't benefit for having that cash in their pocket. That's what gets lost in this argument."

Freeman said he and his fellow county attorneys ensure the property or cash seized is always proportionate to the crime committed.

"I think what (the ruling) means is the Supreme Court saying 'Come on, let's make these proportional. Let's use some common sense," Freeman said.

A spokesperson for the DNR released the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

"The DNR is aware of the recent Supreme Court decision and is reviewing it. The majority of our completed forfeitures include equipment such as rods and reels and firearms seized as a result of fish and game violations. The equipment is sold at public auction and the proceeds are directed to the Game and Fish Fund."
 

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Tim Vetscher

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