This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
1999 Jeep, VIN 1J4GW58S5XC763375,
Filed March 28, 2006
Clay County District Court
File No. C7-05-405
Tami L. Norgard, Vogel Law Firm, 218 NP Avenue, P.O. Box 1389, Fargo, ND 58701 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Collins, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal of an order in a judicial forfeiture proceeding directing the return of a seized vehicle to respondent, the state argues that the district court erred by concluding that respondent is an innocent owner under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d) (2004), and that the district court’s factual findings are clearly erroneous. Because we conclude that the record supports the district court’s findings and that respondent is an innocent owner, we affirm.
Respondent filed a demand for judicial determination of forfeiture, arguing that the vehicle is not subject to forfeiture because he is an innocent owner under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d). The district court determined respondent is an innocent owner and ordered the state to return the vehicle. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
The state challenges
the district court’s findings and argues that respondent is not an innocent
owner as described in Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d) (2004). We review questions of statutory application de
novo. Heine v. Simon, 702 N.W.2d 752, 764 (
vehicle is subject to forfeiture if it was used in the commission of a first-
or second-degree DWI offense.
The district court found that respondent and his wife (1) put their son’s name on the title to “promote responsibility and ownership” and to “get a lower interest rate” from the financing bank; (2) have made 75% of the loan payments and paid all of the insurance and maintenance costs for the vehicle; (3) discussed the seriousness of driving while impaired with their son after his 2004 DWI conviction and monitored his behavior closely since then; (4) were not present when nor aware that their son took the vehicle the night of the DWI offense at issue; and (5) did not know that their son had consumed alcohol before driving the vehicle that night. The district court concluded that respondent showed by clear and convincing evidence that he did not have actual or constructive knowledge that his son was driving while impaired and that respondent is, therefore, an innocent owner under Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d). The district court ordered the state to return the vehicle to respondent.
The district court’s findings are supported by respondent’s uncontroverted testimony and, therefore, are not clearly erroneous. Because respondent did not know that his son had taken the vehicle, we conclude that respondent did not have actual knowledge that it was going to be used in a manner contrary to the law.
The state contends that respondent should have known his son would use the vehicle in a manner contrary to the law because his son was convicted of DWI in 2004. But the forfeiture statute imputes constructive knowledge based solely on prior DWI convictions of a family or household member only after three or more prior convictions. See Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d) (presuming knowledge of a family or household members unlawful use after the third DWI conviction). The statutory presumption does not apply here, and we conclude that respondent did not have constructive knowledge that his son would use the vehicle in a manner contrary to the law.
The state also
argues that Jeremy Jorgenson’s status as a registered owner of the vehicle
extends to the whole vehicle and renders the vehicle subject to forfeiture over
respondent’s innocent-owner defense. See
The purpose of the
forfeiture statute is to separate repeat DWI offenders from their
vehicles. Schug v. Nine Thousand Nine Hundred Sixteen Dollars & Fifty Cents
in U.S. Currency, 669 N.W.2d 379, 384 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (
Here, respondent testified that he intends to sell the vehicle and use the proceeds to satisfy the outstanding loan. Returning the vehicle protects respondent’s interest as an innocent owner and will not violate the public-safety purpose of the forfeiture statute because his son will not have access to the vehicle.
Respondent’s evidence clearly and convincingly shows that he did not actually or constructively know that his son was going to use the vehicle in a manner contrary to the law. Because he is an innocent owner as described in Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d), and because return of the vehicle to respondent does not offend the legislative purpose of the forfeiture statute, we conclude that the district court did not err by ordering the state to return the vehicle.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.