Monday, November 26, 2018

Minnesota DWI Attorney F. T. Sessoms Blogs on Minnesota DWI: This Week's Featured Minnesota DWI Case

The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Mauch v. One 2015 Chevrolet Silverado (Decided November 26, 2018, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that the current statutory "innocent owner defense" is not retroactive.

In Mauch, David Mauch was arrested for DWI in November 2015 while driving a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado.  The title to the vehicle was jointly held by David Mauch and his spouse, Helen.  The police seized the vehicle for forfeiture.  

In December 2015, the Mauches filed a timely demand for judicial determination of forfeiture of motor vehicle. The district court held a bench trial to determine the legality of the forfeiture in February 2017. In April 2017, before the district court had made a decision, the Minnesota Legislature amended the vehicle forfeiture statute to expand the innocent-owner defense in Minnesota forfeiture cases. The 2017 language provides that “[a] motor vehicle is not subject to forfeiture under this section if any of its owners who petition the court can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence” that they are innocent owners. Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d) (Supp. 2017) (emphasis added). Prior to amendment, the statute provided a narrower innocent-owner defense (i.e. if one of the joint-title holders was the drunk driver then the innocent owner defense was not available to the other title holder).

The more expansive innocent owner defense became law after the offense in this case but before the case was final in the district court.  The district court held that the vehicle should be forfeited to the state and on appeal, the issue was whether the 2017 statute is retroactive.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the more expansive innocent owner defense is not retroactive stating:

"David’s DWI occurred in November 2015. At that time, the innocent-owner defense was not available to a joint owner of a vehicle who was unaware of the other owner’s unlawful use of the vehicle. See Laase v. 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe, 776 N.W.2d 431, 439 (Minn. 2009). In other words, the innocent-owner defense was not available in DWI forfeiture matters unless all owners of the vehicle were “innocent.” Id. But the vehicle forfeiture statute was amended in April 2017 to permit a joint owner to keep a forfeited vehicle if they could demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they individually were an innocent owner. See 2017 Minn. Laws eh. 12, § 1, at 37-38. The statutory amendment contained no effective date, so the effective date defaulted to August 1, 2017. See Minn. Stat. § 645.02 (2016) (mandating an effective date of August 1 unless a different date is specified). Therefore, the only question remaining is whether the legislature clearly and manifestly intended the statutory amendment to apply retroactively. Minn. Stat. § 645.21."

"We see no clear and manifest intent on the part of the legislature that the amendment apply retroactively. There is no language in the amendment to suggest any such intent. See 2017 Minn. Laws Ch. 12, § 1, at 37-38. We therefore conclude that Helen was not entitled to claim the innocent-owner defense under the statute in effect at the time of David’s DWI."

Moral of the Story:  While you may be found "not guilty", you can't be innocent after you did it.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a Minnesota DWI, feel free to contact Minnesota DWI Attorney, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI and DUI questions.

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