County District Court File No. 70-CV-15-24105
M. Ventura, Wayzata, Minnesota (for appellant).
Hocevar, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, Assistant
County Attorney, Shakopee, Minnesota (for respondent).
Considered and decided by Jesson, Presiding Judge; Ross,
Judge; and Schellhas, Judge.
owner who claims that his vehicle is not subject to
forfeiture under Minnesota Statutes section 169A.63 (2016)
because the offense prompting the vehicle's seizure
occurred after the vehicle was stolen or taken in violation
of law, forfeits that claim unless he raises it in a timely
civil complaint demanding a judicial determination of the
phrase "[a]ll right, title, and interest" in a
vehicle subject to forfeiture under Minnesota Statutes
section 169A.63, subdivision 3, does not include the right to
insurance proceeds arising from a crash.
Police arrested Russell Briles's drunk son after he
crashed and totaled Briles's GMC Terrain sport utility
vehicle. The police department seized the vehicle and
notified Briles of its intent to forfeit it under the
impaired-driver forfeiture statute, Minnesota Statutes
section 169A.63. Briles had no intent to recover the totaled,
seized wreck, planning instead to recover on his automobile
insurance policy. But unbeknownst to Briles, the police
department's attorney told his insurer to hold any
insurance proceeds and implied that the department had the
right to them. Briles discovered the city's
representation to his insurer only after the statutory 60-day
deadline for his right to file a civil complaint to challenge
the forfeiture. Briles filed a demand for judicial
determination anyway, arguing that the GMC had been
improperly seized and that insurance proceeds are not
forfeitable under the statute. The district court rejected
his filing as untimely based on its conclusion that the
police department had the right to any insurance proceeds.
Because Briles filed his demand for judicial determination of
the vehicle forfeiture after the statutory deadline, we
affirm in part. But because the statute authorizes only the
forfeiture of a person's possessory and ownership
interests in a seized vehicle, not that person's
insurance contract rights, we reverse in part.
Briles's son Andrew went on a joyride in Briles's
2013 GMC Terrain, without Briles's permission, while
Briles and his wife were away on a camping trip in September
2015. Savage Police observed the GMC speeding, and Andrew led
police on a high-speed chase until he lost control and
crashed the car. Police removed him from the car, obviously
intoxicated, and he eventually completed a breath test
revealing a 0.22 alcohol concentration. The state charged him
with fleeing police, second-degree impaired driving, and
driving after his license had been cancelled. He had five
previous alcohol-related driving convictions or license
told police that he had never previously driven the GMC and
that he did not have Briles's permission to drive it.
Police called Briles that same day. He likewise told police
that the GMC belonged to him, not to Andrew, and that Andrew
had no permission to drive the GMC or any other car. The
officer told Briles that the vehicle was being held for
forfeiture and that a certified letter declaring that had
already been sent. A transcript of that telephone discussion
reveals that the officer never discussed insurance coverage
or mentioned any interest in insurance proceeds.
September 25, 2015, Briles received by certified mail the
formal "Notice of Seizure and Intent to Forfeit Vehicle
/ Property, " identifying Briles's GMC and stating,
"This property is subject to forfeiture because it was
used to commit: Impaired Driving - MS § 169A.63."
Minnesota Statutes section 169A.63 is the impaired-driving
forfeiture statute. The notice also stated, "You will
automatically lose the above-described property and the right
to be heard in court if you do not file a lawsuit and serve
the prosecuting authority within 60 days, " and,
"Forfeiture of the property is automatic unless within
60 days following service of this Notice of Seizure, you, or
any person who has a legal interest in the property, file a
demand for a determination by a judge." The notice said
nothing about the department's plan to seize or forfeit
any insurance proceeds related to the crash.
same day that Briles received the written forfeiture notice,
an assistant Scott County attorney sent a letter to
Briles's insurance carrier, Progressive Insurance. The
letter notified Progressive of the police department's
forfeiture interest in Briles's GMC, and, citing
Schug v. $9, 916.50 in U.S. Currency, 669 N.W.2d 379
(Minn.App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Dec. 16,
2003), urged Progressive not to disburse any insurance
proceeds until the forfeiture was resolved. The attorney did
not copy Briles on this letter to his insurer. Briles did not
learn about the letter until early December 2015. But this
was after the statutory 60-day filing deadline to challenge
the forfeiture and after the county ...