This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
1984 Ford Tempo VIN 1FABP22R1EK269847,
Dakota County District Court
File No. C8006271
Peter J. Timmons, 2850 Metro Drive #321, Bloomington, MN 55425-1411 (for respondent)
Kevin W. Eide, Grannis & Hauge, P.A., 1260 Yankee Doodle Road #200, Eagan, MN 55121-2201 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
GARY L. CRIPPEN, Judge
The prosecuting authority challenges the trial court’s refusal to keep the record open for proof of additional elements of its forfeiture claim regarding respondent David Eckman’s vehicle. Because the prosecution failed to move for a continuance at the time of the hearing, and because the trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to take the matter under advisement, we affirm.
Respondent’s vehicle was seized after his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances. The state proceeded with the forfeiture hearing and made no request for continuance but realized as it went forward that it would be unable to prove the necessary elements for vehicle forfeiture because the criminal trial and the civil implied-consent hearing had not yet occurred. After the forfeiture hearing, the state requested that the trial court take the matter under advisement but keep the record open until the results of the other pending proceedings could be submitted.
Noting the state’s failure to make a prehearing motion for continuance, the trial court denied the request to hold open the matter. The court also noted respondent’s objection that the state’s request would prejudice its case; because the state would be unable to prove its case at the time the hearing occurred, respondent waived his right to cross-examine witnesses.
The vehicle in this case is subject to forfeiture under Minnesota law only if respondent is convicted of the designated offense for which the forfeiture occurs or the license revocation is sustained. Minn. Stat. § 169.1217, subd. 7 (Supp. 1999) (repealed and recodified at Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7 (2000), effective Jan. 1, 2001). The statute in effect at the time of the hearing in this case also required that the forfeiture hearing “shall take place at the same time as any judicial review of the person's license revocation under section 169.123.” Minn. Stat. § 169.1217, subd. 7a(d) (Supp. 1999) (repealed and recodified as amended at Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 8(d), effective Jan. 1, 2001. The amendment to section 169A.63, subd. 8(d), does not affect the outcome of this case).
Because a license-revocation hearing or criminal proceeding had not yet occurred, the state was unable to prove its case as required by the statute. “The decision to grant a continuance is vested in the sound discretion of the trial court.” State v. Miller, 488 N.W.2d 235, 239 (Minn. 1992) (citation omitted). The circumstances of the case do not suggest an abuse of discretion in the trial court’s assessment of whether it was just and practical to keep open the trial record for the benefit of one party where there was potential prejudice to the other. We are especially mindful, as was the trial court, that the request to keep the record open did not occur until after the hearing had ended and the potential for prejudice to the adverse party had ripened.
The prosecuting authority contends that its approach in this case was exceptionally compelling because it represents the state’s best choice of action in difficult circumstances. Ideally, as the state describes its concerns, forfeiture proceedings would not go forward until the implied-consent and criminal proceedings were first determined. But the state argues that having to ask at the outset for a continuance of the forfeiture hearing until after the other proceedings have been completed is not apt to be beneficial to the court or the parties because it would “deny the driver or owner of the vehicle the opportunity to have prompt judicial review of the forfeiture.” Also, as the prosecutor explains, it is not uncommon for a case to be processed as it was here, where the forfeiture proceeding was scheduled to occur before the implied-consent proceeding. Although the statute in effect at the time of the forfeiture hearing required that the two proceedings take place at the same time, the state observes the difficulty for court administrators, when scheduling one proceeding, to search their records for a related case. Moreover, as the state observes, even if it sought to have the proceedings occur together, the state may have an unsuccessful result in the implied-consent proceeding and wish to have the forfeiture matter heard still later, after the criminal matter.
We do not find merit in the prosecutor’s contentions that its scheduling dilemma compels the trial court to keep the forfeiture-proceeding record open. Certainly, at the outset, the state could change the date of the forfeiture proceeding to the date of the implied-consent proceeding. In addition, we have no reason to disregard the trial court’s freedom to continue both proceedings until after the criminal case had been determined. Or, if this was objectionable to the defendant, it has not been shown that the court could not conduct the forfeiture proceeding in such a way as not to prejudice either party. In any event, the state had full opportunity to employ motions for continuance, in advance of opening a trial record in any of the related cases, to permit the trial court to determine the course that best served the court and both parties.