A few rogue cops led the state to make a change to its forfeiture laws.
The law comes in the wake of the Metro Gang Strike Force problems, when issues raised in a pair of 2009 reports indicated that officers illegally took some property from people with no gang connections, but who were searched and interrogated anyway; poor recordkeeping; and officers or their family members were permitted to purchase items from the evidence room at low prices.
Sponsored by Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), the law requires the Board of Peace Officer Standards & Training and Minnesota County Attorneys Association to develop policies for best practices in forfeiture law to promote uniform application across the state. A copy of the policies is due the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2010.
By March 1, 2011, “the chief law enforcement office of every state and local law enforcement agency and every prosecution office in the state shall adopt and implement a written policy on forfeiture that is identical or substantially similar to the model policies developed.”
This section is effective July 1, 2010.
Other provisions in the law, each effective Aug. 1, 2010, include:
• an officer must give a forfeiture receipt when seizing property;
• the implementation of timelines for forfeiture notice and hearings;
• county attorneys can remit or mitigate the forfeiture if “the forfeiture was incurred without willful negligence or without any intention on the part of the petitioner to violate the law,” or there are extenuating circumstances;
• a cap of $50,000 is placed on the value of property that can be administratively forfeited;
• a contested controlled substance administrative forfeiture hearing must be held within 180 days of the claimant’s filing of the demand, unless a criminal proceeding is possible;
• law enforcement agencies cannot sell forfeited property to its employees or their family members; and
• before seized property can be forfeited administratively, a county attorney will need to review the file and ensure that everything has been done legally.
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