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Gaertner v. One 1999 Dodge Pickup Truck

August 26, 2003

SUSAN GAERTNER, RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY ON BEHALF OF THE MINNESOTA STATE PATROL, RESPONDENT,
v.
ONE 1999 DODGE PICKUP TRUCK, MN LIC. NO. GKR-391, APPELLANT.



Ramsey County District Court File No. C1022876

Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

I. Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd. 4 (2000), exclusively controls forfeiture proceedings where the person is accused of fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.

II. The surrender provision in Minn. Stat. §á609.531, subd.á5a(b) (2000), can be effectuated harmoniously with Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd. 4, because section 609.531, subdivision 5a(b), is the repository of general forfeiture rules, while section 609.5312, subdivision 4, applies specifically to forfeitures for fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge

Affirmed

OPINION

The subject of this forfeiture proceeding is one 1999 Dodge pickup truck, Minnesota license number GRK-391 (the truck). Martin John Stoltzman owns the truck, and he appeals from a stipulation following the district court's Julyá10, 2002, order refusing to dismiss the forfeiture proceedings.*fn2 The state patrol seized the truck in March 2002 upon arresting Stoltzman for fleeing a police officer; the state then instigated forfeiture proceedings. On Marchá28, 2002, the district court ordered that the truck be retained by the state patrol until the court made a final determination regarding the forfeiture of the truck. Shortly thereafter, Stoltzman attempted to redeem possession of the truck under the surrender provision in Minn. Stat. §á609.531, subd.á5a(b) (2000), by surrendering the certificate of title to the state patrol. Relying on the district court's Marchá28, 2002, order, the state patrol did not surrender the vehicle. The district court ruled on a subsequent motion for dismissal that Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd.á4 (2000), relating to forfeiture proceedings for fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, precluded relief under the surrender provision in Minn. Stat. §á609.531, subd.á5a(b). Because we conclude that the specific forfeiture provision relating to fleeing a police officer controls and that both provisions can be effectuated, we affirm.

FACTS

Near midnight on Marchá24, 2002, a state trooper detected a truck traveling at 71 miles per hour in a 55-mile-per-hour zone on I-35E in St. Paul. The trooper finally stopped the truck near Larpenteur Avenue, got out of the squad car and approached the truck. As he neared the back end of the truck, it accelerated at a high rate of speed. The trooper followed the truck as it turned off the next exit, Maryland Avenue, and observed the truck almost lose control on the ramp. From Maryland Avenue, the truck proceeded at a high rate of speed and made several turns. As it was completing the final turn, the driver and registered owner of the truck, Martin John Stoltzman, lost control of the truck and it veered into a snowbank, striking a utility pole. Stoltzman continued to flee on foot and was apprehended after he tripped and fell. Even then, he continued to struggle with the officers. Stoltzman smelled strongly of alcohol and admitted to fleeing police on previous occasions. The state patrol arrested Stoltzman and seized the truck.

The state charged Stoltzman with felony fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle, in violation of Minn. Stat. §á609.487, subd.á3 (2000), and simultaneously filed a motion to forfeit Stoltzman's truck under Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd.á4 (2000), which governs forfeitures for fleeing police officers. Stoltzman failed to appear at the first scheduled hearing. The district court filed a preliminary order, ruling that the state patrol should retain possession of the truck until final disposition of the proceedings. On Aprilá1, 2002, Stoltzman, relying on the surrender provision in Minn. Stat. §á609.531, subd.á5a(b) (2000), attempted to redeem possession of the truck by tendering the certificate of title to the truck along with a letter from his attorney. But the state patrol did not surrender the truck, and Stoltzman contends that the state patrol continues to retain possession of the title as well.

Stoltzman pleaded guilty to the charged offense on April 25, 2002, and the court sentenced him on June 6, 2002. But on Mayá15, 2002, Stoltzman filed a motion to dismiss the forfeiture proceedings, requesting attorney fees. The district court denied Stoltzman's motion on Julyá10, 2002, concluding that Minn. Stat. §á609.5312, subd.á4, specifically governs forfeitures for fleeing a police officer; while Minn. Stat. §á609.531 (2000), in contrast, addresses seizures and forfeitures generally. Therefore, the state patrol was under no obligation to surrender Stoltzman's truck. Moreover, the district court found that the legislature differentiated between the two methods available to redeem possession of personal property pending forfeiture under Minn. Stat. §á609.531, subd. 5a: (1)ásubdivision 5a(a) applies to all pending forfeitures, and (2)ásubdivision 5a(b) only applies to vehicles seized under that section [Minn. Stat. §á609.531]. The district court concluded that because the pending forfeiture was brought under §á609.5312, subd.á4, the surrender option in §á609.531, subd.á5a(b), is inapplicable. Based on this holding, the district court did not reach the issue of attorney fees.

The district court, however, did not enter a final judgment; therefore, Stoltzman could not appeal from that order. Accordingly, the parties entered into a stipulation on Octoberá24, 2002, approved by the district court on Octoberá31, 2002, providing that, if either party perfects an appeal, the state patrol shall ...


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