Editorial: Minnesota’s civil forfeiture laws need major reform

Imagine for a moment the government comes to your house, takes property from you and then refuses to give it back without ever charging you with a crime. Continue to imagine that the same government then can sell said property and share the proceeds with the groups that helped take it from you.

This scenario sounds like it is straight out of some corrupt foreign country, doesn’t it?

Welcome to the world of civil asset forfeiture – a practice that is legal, albeit in differing forms, in Central Minnesota. I have written about this topic in the past. Given some large developments, now is a great time to revisit the subject.

Let’s start with what forfeiture is. Minnesota is home to two types of forfeiture laws – judicial and administrative. Judicial forfeiture requires a court order before an agency can take ownership of a person’s property. Administrative forfeiture allows an agency to take possession before any court review but requires it to give notice to the owner.