The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Briles v. One GMC Motor Vehicle (Decided March 13, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Published) which stands for the proposition even if a motor vehicle is subject to a DWI forfeiture, the insurance proceeds arising from the DWI crash are not!
In Briles the Savage police arrested Russell Briles's drunk son after he crashed and totaled Briles's GMC Terrain sport utility vehicle. The police department seized the vehicle and notified Briles of its intent to forfeit it under the impaired-driver forfeiture statute, Minnesota Statutes section 169A.63. Briles had no intent to recover the totaled, seized wreck, planning instead to recover on his automobile insurance policy. But unbeknownst to Briles, the police department's attorney told his insurer to hold any insurance proceeds and implied that the department had the right to them. Briles discovered the city's representation to his insurer only after the statutory 60-day deadline for his right to file a civil complaint to challenge the forfeiture.
Briles filed a demand for judicial determination anyway, arguing that the GMC had been improperly seized and that insurance proceeds are not forfeitable under the statute. The district court rejected his filing as untimely based on its conclusion that the police department had the right to any insurance proceeds.
On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the district court, stating:
"We believe this case can be resolved on the statute's plain language. Section 169A.63 nowhere specifies that money, proceeds, or anything other than the right, title, and interest in the vehicle itself is forfeitable: "All right, title, and interest in a vehicle subject to forfeiture under this section vests in the appropriate agency upon commission of the conduct resulting in the designated offense or designated license revocation giving rise to the forfeiture." Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 3."
"Neither party argues that section 169A.63 is ambiguous. Rather, they dispute whether the forfeiting agency's "right, title, and interest" in a forfeited vehicle extends to the right to related insurance proceeds, which in some sense represent the wrecked vehicle. The legislature has written a broader statute, which was not invoked and does not apply here, to expressly include the targeted property and property "that represents] proceeds of a designated offense": "All personal property is subject to forfeiture if it was used or intended for use to commit or facilitate the commission of a designated offense. All money and other property, real and personal, that represent proceeds of a designated offense, and all contraband property, are subject to forfeiture, except as provided in this section." Minn. Stat. § 609.5312, subd. 1(a) (2016). And the legislature expressly urges that we treat this criminal forfeiture statute, section 609.5312, liberally rather than strictly. See Minn. Stat. § 609.531, subd. la (2016) (stating that sections 609.531 to 609.5318 must be liberally construed). This demonstrates that the legislature knows how to expressly include the kind of liberal and broadening language that the city asks us to incorporate inferentially into section 169A.63. Because we presume that the legislature is aware of the caselaw consistently treating the impaired-driver forfeiture statute strictly against an agency's power to take a vehicle by forfeiture, in contrast to the liberal treatment of criminal forfeiture statutes, we can infer that its choice not to add any broadening language in section 169A.63 is intentional. Nothing in the language of section 169A.63 moves us to believe that any property other than the right, title, and interest in the offender's vehicle itself is forfeitable property under that section."
The Minnesota Court of Appeals therefore correctly held, "...as to the forfeiture of any insurance proceeds resulting from an insurance policy covering Briles's vehicle, the district court incorrectly concluded that the "right, title, and interest" to a forfeited vehicle includes the right to the owner's contractual interest in the insurance proceeds.
Moral of the Story: You can lose your car but you can still get your money!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.