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How do I go about getting my vehicle back after it was forfeited when my son was driving and got a second DWI.

Albert Lea, MN |

I am hoping to do this with the courts my self. I cannot afford to hire an attorney. I have already recieved the Notice to seize or forfeit the vehicle.

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Attorney answers 5


The Minnesota Judical Branch website has a "Self Help Center" which provides information and documents to people who are trying to represent themselves during a court proceeding. I have attached the link the their page dealing with Motor Vehicle Forfeitures based on Alcohol Related Offenses. I hope you find the information and forms on that page helpful.


You can challenge a DWI vehicle forfeiture (taking) in conciliation court without a lawyer, if the property is worth $15,000 or less.


The previous answers are correct. Whether you have an attorney or not, you are expected to make proper filings with the court. You should consider a conciliation court claim, using the conciliation forms available at your local courthouse.

If the car is worth too much to qualify for conciliation court, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney, as a car that valuable may be worth paying the legal fees.


You must sue the state in Conciliation court and demonstrate that the vehicle was yours and you were unaware it would be used to commit a crime.

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You can challenge the forfeiture in conciliation court if the vehicle is worth less than $15,000. It is important to keep in mind that you have only 60 days to challenge the forfeiture in court. In addition, within the same 60 days, the forfeiture complaint must be served (by mail or in person) upon the correct prosecutor and the correct arresting police agency that initiated the forfeiture. You also will have to file an affidavit of service within the same 60-day time limit.

See Minn. Statutes Section 169A.63 (

"(e) Within 60 days following service of a notice of seizure and forfeiture under this subdivision, a claimant may file a demand for a judicial determination of the forfeiture. The demand must be in the form of a civil complaint and must be filed with the court administrator in the county in which the seizure occurred, together with proof of service of a copy of the complaint on the prosecuting authority having jurisdiction over the forfeiture, including the standard filing fee for civil actions unless the petitioner has the right to sue in forma pauperis under section 563.01. The claimant may serve the complaint by any means permitted by court rules. If the value of the seized property is $15,000 or less, the claimant may file an action in conciliation court for recovery of the seized vehicle. A copy of the conciliation court statement of claim must be served personally or by mail on the prosecuting authority having jurisdiction over the forfeiture, as well as on the appropriate agency that initiated the forfeiture, within 60 days following service of the notice of seizure and forfeiture under this subdivision. If the value of the seized property is less than $500, the claimant does not have to pay the conciliation court filing fee."

"(d) A motor vehicle is not subject to forfeiture under this section if its owner can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the owner did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the vehicle would be used or operated in any manner contrary to law or that the owner took reasonable steps to prevent use of the vehicle by the offender. If the offender is a family or household member of the owner and has three or more prior impaired driving convictions, the owner is presumed to know of any vehicle use by the offender that is contrary to law. "Vehicle use contrary to law" includes, but is not limited to, violations of the following statutes:

(1) section 171.24 (violations; driving without valid license);

(2) section 169.791 (criminal penalty for failure to produce proof of insurance);

(3) section 171.09 (driving restrictions; authority, violations);

(4) section 169A.20 (driving while impaired);

(5) section 169A.33 (underage drinking and driving); and

(6) section 169A.35 (open bottle law). "

"(f) The complaint must be captioned in the name of the claimant as plaintiff and the seized vehicle as defendant, and must state with specificity the grounds on which the claimant alleges the vehicle was improperly seized, the claimant's interest in the vehicle seized, and any affirmative defenses the claimant may have. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, an action for the return of a vehicle seized under this section may not be maintained by or on behalf of any person who has been served with a notice of seizure and forfeiture unless the person has complied with this subdivision."

An innocent owner should allege that he is not liable for storage fees upon return of the vehicle. If an innocent owner is successful, storage fees can be a significant issue for the judge to decide.

If an owner has a strong innocent owner defense, the owner should negotiate the return of the vehicle as soon as possible.

For a summary of Minnesota's DWI forfeiture's laws, see

This answer is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice specific to your circumstances, consult an attorney in your state.

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