The state auditor of Minnesota is asking state legislators to stop the forfeiture of assets of less than $1,500. Her reason for the request is the belief that individuals with low income are disproportionately affected by these forfeitures.
The 2019 Asset Forfeiture Report for the state showed that the number of forfeitures fell to 7,708 from 8,091 in 2018. The single-year decrease in property seizures comes on the heels of four years of steady increases. Experts say that 65% of all property seized in Minnesota are automobiles.
The state auditor explained that these forfeitures often mean the difference between paying rent on time and not having a place to live for people who subsist on a modest income. The auditor also pointed out that the seizure of a vehicle can mean that family breadwinners have no way to get to and from work.
The report from the auditor’s office also showed that increases in both drug-related offenses and drunk driving were in the double digits over the last five years. The state auditor suggests this information as evidence that asset forfeiture is not very effective as a crime deterrent.
The state auditor also questions how much actual benefit the asset forfeiture program produces. Overall, the value of 2019 forfeitures equaled $10.5 million. Once the cost to set up auctions and the value of the property returned to owners was subtracted from that number, the program netted $7.5 million.
The state auditor says the real problem exists with forfeitures of $1,500 or less. She says these forfeitures added a total of $1.5 million to state coffers, which was less than $500 per property seizure. The auditor explains that this amount of money is not much benefit to the state but can greatly impact the lives of residents.
Individuals charged with criminal offenses face a significant risk of loss of freedom, property and reputation. A criminal defense attorney may help individuals accused of criminal wrongdoing protect their rights.