Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-10-23013
SYLLABUS 1. The holding of Patino v. One 2007 Chevrolet, 821 N.W.2d 810 (Minn. 2012), that, under the vehicle-forfeiture statute, a vehicle may not be judicially forfeited when the vehicle's driver is not convicted of a designated offense, applies retroactively. 2. Where a driver accused of driving while impaired is not the owner of the subject vehicle, the driver's agreement as part of a guilty plea not to assert certain rights or defenses in any subsequent forfeiture action brought under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63 (2012) is not binding upon the owner of the subject vehicle.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
This appeal is from an order granting respondents' petition challenging forfeiture of the appellant vehicle because the owner, respondent Julie Tollefson, did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the vehicle would be operated in a manner contrary to law by its driver, respondent Terry Woodruff. While this case was pending, the Minnesota Supreme Court released its opinion in Patino v. One 2007 Chevrolet, 821 N.W.2d 810, holding that after a timely demand for judicial determination of forfeiture is made, if the person charged with a designated offense under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 1(e), is not convicted of the offense, the district court is required under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(f), to return the vehicle to the person legally entitled to it. Id. at 817.Because respondents made a timely demand for judicial determination of forfeiture and Woodruff was not convicted of a designated offense, the district court was required to return appellant vehicle to Tollefson. Id. Though Patino was released while this case was pending, we conclude that Patino applies retroactively and therefore affirm the district court's order granting respondents' petition contesting forfeiture.
Respondent Julie Tollefson is the registered owner of the appellant vehicle. She met respondent Terry Woodruff over the Fourth of July holiday in 2010, and they saw each other a few times over the next few months. In September 2010, Woodruff and Tollefson attended a Minnesota Twins game. Woodruff drove Tollefson's vehicle.
According to their testimony, Woodruff and Tollefson each consumed three drinks over the next four to five hours and were generally in each other's presence. Tollefson did not believe that either she or Woodruff was intoxicated, and she testified that Woodruff showed no signs of intoxication.
As they were driving home, Woodruff made an abrupt lane change to exit the highway and was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving. Woodruff failed the field sobriety tests as well as the preliminary breath test, and the officer placed Woodruff under arrest for driving while impaired (DWI). The officer then administered a preliminary breath test to Tollefson to determine if she was able to drive the vehicle home. Tollefson tested under the legal limit, but because the test showed that Tollefson had consumed alcohol, the officer instructed Tollefson to drive the vehicle to a nearby parking garage, where an officer escorted her to the police station. At the police station, Woodruff refused to take a breath test, and he was charged with second-degree DWI.*fn1
Shortly after Woodruff's arrest, the City of Golden Valley sent a notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the vehicle. Respondents made a timely demand for judicial determination pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9, and the parties agreed to stay the action pending the resolution of the criminal matter. Tollefson was permitted to retain possession of her vehicle while the matter was pending.
In January 2011, Woodruff entered into a plea agreement whereby he pleaded guilty to third-degree DWI, but agreed not to raise a Mastakoski defense under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9, at any subsequent forfeiture proceeding. In Mastakoski v. 2003 Dodge Durango, 738 N.W.2d 411 (Minn. App. 2007), review denied (Minn. Nov. 21, 2007), this court held that a vehicle is subject to forfeiture under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63 if it was used in the commission of a designated offense, even if the driver was not convicted of a designated offense. Id. at 415. Though it is not clear from the record, it appears that, by agreeing not to raise a Mastakoski defense, Woodruff was agreeing not to argue at a subsequent ...