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Olson v. One 1999 Lexus MN License Plate No. 851LDV

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 2, 2018

Megan Ashley Olson, et al., Respondents,
v.
One 1999 Lexus MN License Plate No. 851LDV VIN: JT6HF10U6X0079461, Appellant.

          Scott County District Court File No. 70-CV-15-19441

          Charles A. Ramsay, Daniel J. Koewler, Ramsay Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Roseville, Minnesota (for respondents)

          Ronald Hocevar, Scott County Attorney, Todd P. Zettler, Assistant County Attorney, Shakopee, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Johnson, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Chief Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(d) (2016), is unconstitutional as applied to respondents, the driver and the registered owner of a vehicle that was seized after driver's driving while impaired (DWI) arrest, because their right to procedural due process was violated when they were denied prompt, post-deprivation judicial review for over 18 months pending the resolution of the driver's related criminal action.

          OPINION

          KIRK, Judge

         In this vehicle-forfeiture appeal, the state challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment to respondents, the driver and the registered owner of a vehicle seized pursuant to the driver's DWI arrest, arguing that the district court erred in concluding that Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(d), unconstitutionally violates procedural due process. Because we conclude that Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(d), is unconstitutional as applied here, we affirm.

         FACTS

         On August 16, 2015, respondent-driver Megan Ashley Olson was arrested for DWI. Megan had three prior DWI convictions and was charged with two counts of felony first-degree DWI under Minn. Stat. §§ 169A.20, subd. 1(1), (5), .24, subd. 1(1) (2014). Because first-degree DWI is a "designated offense, " police also seized the vehicle that Megan was driving, a 1999 Lexus, for forfeiture. Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 1(e)(1) (2016). Megan received notice of the seizure and intent to forfeit at the time of her arrest. Megan was the primary driver of the Lexus, but Megan's mother, respondent-owner Helen Olson, is the registered owner. Helen was also served with notice of the seizure and intent to forfeit.

         On October 7, 2015, the Olsons filed a demand for judicial determination of the vehicle forfeiture in the form of a civil complaint, and a court trial was set for February 11, 2016. Thereafter, the court trial was continued or rescheduled six times pending the outcome of Megan's related implied-consent and criminal-DWI matters. On May 16, 2016, Megan's driver's license revocation was upheld in her implied-consent case. On October 12, 2016, Megan pleaded guilty to one count of felony first-degree DWI in her criminal case, but she was not convicted until February 13, 2017.

         On October 14, 2016, the Olsons moved for summary judgment in the forfeiture action. A hearing was scheduled for December 2016, but was continued until after Megan was sentenced for the DWI at the state's request. A hearing eventually took place in the forfeiture action on February 23, 2017. On May 24, 2017, the court granted the Olsons summary judgment, concluding that Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(d), does not provide for meaningful review after a prehearing vehicle seizure and therefore violates procedural due process. The court ordered the prompt return of the Lexus. The district court stayed its May 24, 2017 judgment pending the result of this appeal.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court err in concluding that Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 9(d), violates procedural due process and is unconstitutional?

         ANALYSIS

         I. Standard of Review.

         "When the district court grants a summary judgment based on its application of statutory language to the undisputed facts of a case, . . . its conclusion is one of law and our review is de novo." Lefto v. Hoggsbreath Enters., Inc., 581 N.W.2d 855, 856 (Minn. 1998). Whether a statute violates procedural due process is also a question of law subject to de novo review. Sawh v. City of Lino Lakes, 823 N.W.2d 627, 632 (Minn. 2012); Williams v. Comm'r of Pub. Safety, 830 N.W.2d 442, 444 (Minn.App. 2013), review denied (Minn. July 16, 2013). "We presume that Minnesota statutes are constitutional and will declare a statute unconstitutional with extreme caution and only when absolutely necessary. The party challenging a statute on constitutional grounds must meet the very heavy burden of demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that the statute is ...


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