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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Marion O'Neill (R)

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House Sends Civil Forfeiture Reform Bill to Governor

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rep. O’Neill legislation gives citizens a fair chance to get confiscated vehicle returned in court

SAINT PAUL, MINN—On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the House unanimously (128-0) passed Senate File 151, bipartisan civil forfeiture reform legislation authored by Representative Marion O’Neill, R-Maple Lake.

The bill allows an innocent joint owner of a seized vehicle to petition the court to have the vehicle returned to them. If someone is convicted of a DWI and has their vehicle taken from them, under current law and a 2009 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, the co-owner of that car like a spouse or family member does not have legal standing in court, and all parties have lost rights to that vehicle. This change gives a co-owner the right to petition the court and demonstrate by the civil legal standard of clear and convincing evidence that they had no knowledge the vehicle would be used in this unlawful manner or reasonable steps were taken to prevent the use of the vehicle by the offender.

“For Minnesotans convicted of driving under the influence, it makes sense that they may lose driving privileges and a right to their automobile. But when that vehicle may be the only mode of transportation for a family or spouse who did not know their vehicle would be used unlawfully, it is problematic for the state to confiscate it from the co-owner as well,” said Rep. Marion O’Neill. “This bipartisan legislation will give citizens their right to a day in court to plead their case before a judge to have their property returned to them. I am honored by the overwhelming support as it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and I am hopeful that Governor Dayton will sign the bill into law.”

Senate File 151 passed the Senate 65-0. It will now be sent to Governor Dayton for his signature into law.

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