The term "facilitate," as used in Minn. Stat. § 609.5312, subd. 1 (2000), requires a direct and substantial connection between the property being forfeited and the designated offense.
Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Page, Justice
Jerry Joseph Duwenhoegger, the owner of 1JCMT7840HTI07485 1987 Station Wagon (Jeep), was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.175, subd. 2(2) (2000). The Nicollet County Attorney, Michael K. Riley, Sr. (county), sought forfeiture of the Jeep pursuant to Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd. 1 (2000).*fn1 The district court ordered forfeiture of the Jeep and the court of appeals affirmed. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse.
In September 1998, Duwenhoegger enlisted an acquaintance, John Sullivan, to assist him in killing Jeffrey Shanks and Esther Meschke, respectively the son and mother of Duwenhoegger's girlfriend, Norine Shanks. Sullivan, who went to the police and became an informant, met with Duwenhoegger on four occasions in September 1998: September 17, September 18, September 20, and September 21. At each of these meetings, Duwenhoegger drove his Jeep to the meeting place, exited the Jeep, and entered Sullivan's vehicle, where the two made their plans.
The final meeting was a reconnaissance mission to get a sense of the layout of Meschke's house. On that occasion, Duwenhoegger brought with him in the Jeep a number of items, including a flashlight, a drill, a drill bit, a screwdriver, some wire, and gloves, all of which he planned to use to enter a basement window in Meschke's house. Using Sullivan's vehicle, Sullivan and Duwenhoegger drove to Meschke's house and, while Sullivan acted as lookout, Duwenhoegger attempted to break in. The break-in was unsuccessful, and Duwenhoegger returned to the vehicle to rethink his plan. Sullivan later took Duwenhoegger back to his Jeep, where Duwenhoegger was arrested. Duwenhoegger was charged with and convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
The county instituted this forfeiture proceeding pursuant to Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd. 1, and moved for summary judgment on the basis that Duwenhoegger used the Jeep to commit and facilitate the conspiracy to commit murder, a designated offense under the statute. Duwenhoegger also moved for summary judgment, contending that he did not use the Jeep as the county alleged. Duwenhoegger further contended that, on these facts, civil forfeiture of the Jeep would amount to a second punishment in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clauses of both the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.
The district court granted the county's motion for summary judgment and ordered forfeiture, concluding that Duwenhoegger had used the Jeep in furtherance of the conspiracy to commit the murders. In the memorandum supporting its forfeiture order, the district court stated: "The transporting of the tools by Mr. Duwenhoegger in [the Jeep] in preparation for entry into the proposed victim's home clearly constitutes use of [the Jeep] to facilitate the commission of the designated offense. Therefore, [the county] is entitled to summary judgment on this issue." The district court further concluded that there was no basis for Duwenhoegger's double jeopardy claim because the forfeiture in this case was "remedial and not punitive."
In affirming the district court's decision, the court of appeals held:
[T]he use of the vehicle to transport tools used to commit an overt act in furtherance of a conspiracy, and its use in transporting a conspirator to a site where he formulated the conspiracy plan with a co-conspirator, facilitated the crime and provided a sufficient nexus to warrant forfeiture of the vehicle. Riley v. 1987 Station Wagon, 634 N.W.2d 434, 437 (Minn. App. 2001).
Concerning Duwenhoegger's double jeopardy claim, the court of appeals held that "the forfeiture of a 14-year-old vehicle after a conviction for conspiracy to commit first-degree murder is not the type of forfeiture that ...