North Dakota: Attorneys laud transparency in civil asset forfeiture law; bill sponsor disputes law’s benefits

But Dorn lost the truck to civil asset forfeiture in a separate case that essentially convicted his vehicle while he went free.

However, new attorneys took his case in March to undo the judgment and succeeded in returning Dorn’s truck, which he drove home in October. He’ll begin to repair it next spring after saving money this winter.

Dorn theorizes he wouldn’t have lost his truck if a 2019 bill had passed before his 2016 arrest. Parallel to his plight came reforms to North Dakota’s civil asset forfeiture law passed by the 2019 Legislature, effective Aug. 1. Civil asset forfeiture applies to property involved in crimes, such as cash or vehicles seized from illegal drug operations.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office trained prosecutors this fall on the new law. It requires a conviction, with exceptions, to initiate forfeiture proceedings and raises the standard of proof for forfeiture. It also requires law enforcement agencies to report forfeitures, among other changes.