Civil asset forfeiture is getting out of control in the Gopher State.
A new report from the West Central Tribune indicates that the Minnesota state government seized 3 percent more property involved in crimes in 2018 than the year prior.
Even though the increase in the amount of property seized was not that large, the money the state took in cash and sale of forfeitures rose by 18 percent according to a report from the State Auditor’s Office.
317 law enforcement agencies in Minnesota conducted 8,091 forfeitures in 2018, while 7,852 of these were conducted in 2017. The net receipts from the sales of 4,895 forfeitures approximated $8.3 million in 2018. The rest of the 3,196 forfeitures were returned, destroyed or not factored in the latest statistics.
As of 2014, asset forfeitures have been on the rise in Minnesota. The number of completed forfeitures increased by 18 percent and the largest category of items seized fell in the range of $100 to $499 during this time-frame.
Forfeitures dealing with controlled substances and DUI offenses made up 90 percent of forfeitures last year. Drug seizures have risen by 13 percent since 2014.
Putting it bluntly, civil asset forfeiture is a racket. Law enforcement agencies seized $4.5 billion in assets in 2014 alone. From 2001 to 2014, they seized $29 billion in assets. On top of that, this practice has dubious constitutionality. In most states, civil asset forfeiture is conducted without the accused in question receiving a conviction—a clear violation of due process.
Minnesota is one state that needs to boost its protections against unjust asset forfeiture practices. According to the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit index, Minnesota has a D+ rating as far as its civil asset forfeiture laws are concerned.
Instead, Minnesota should take after states like Nebraska and New Mexico by strengthening due process standards during these procedures. It can also go a step further by refusing to prosecute non-violent drug cases, thus removing asset forfeiture out of the equation. Civil asset forfeiture reform is a winnable battle, and Minnesota is another place that liberty activists should target for civil asset forfeiture reform.