The Minnesota DWI Case of The Week is Patino v. One 2007 Chevrolet, (decided October 31, 2011) a published decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals which stands for the proposition that in order for a DWI vehicle forfeiture to be valid, the Defendant must be convicted of the underlying offense which gave rise to the forfeiture in the first place. This case is significant as it finally overrules Mastakoski v. 2003 Dodge Durango, 738 N.W.2d 411 (Minn. App. 2007).
In Patino, the Defendant was charged with Second Degree DWI which gave rise to the forfeiture of his vehicle. The Defendant was charged with Second Degree DWI because he had one prior DWI within ten years of the current offense and he also had a child in the vehicle at the time of the current offense. The Defendant was allowed to plead guilty to Third Degree DWI (child endangerment) and then he sought the judicial return of his vehicle.
It was the Defendant's position that since he had not been convicted of a designated forfeiture offense (i.e. Second Degree DWI) he was entitled to the vehicle's return. The State on the other hand relied on Mastakoski v. 2003 Dodge Durango, which had held that the driver need not be convicted of a designated forfeiture offense as long as the driving conduct constituted the commission of a designated offense.
In rejecting the state's position and overruling Mastakoski, the Patino court held, "Forfeiture is a civil in rem cause of action; because it is punitive in nature, the reviewing court strictly construes the language of a forfeiture statute and resolves any doubts in favor of the party challenging the forfeiture...."
In Mastakoski the Court "...did not address the language of Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(f), which unequivocally states that if 'the forfeiture is based on the commission of a designated offense and the person charged with the designated offense appears in court as required and is not convicted of the offense, the court shall order the property returned to the person legally entitled to it."
The court in Patino therefore held that since the defendant had not been convicted of the designated forfeiture offense, he was entitled to the return of the vehicle.
Moral of the Story: Give Them Long Enough And They Will Get It Right!
F.T. Sessoms, Minnesota DWI Attorney, Minnesota DUI Lawyer, Minneapolis DWI Attorney, Minneapolis DUI Lawyer