The Minnesota Legislature is attempting MN DWI vehicle forfeiture laws. Last summer, a law went into effect allowing drivers to get their vehicles back, after they have been seized from a DWI-related offense, if they became program participants in Minnesota’s Ignition Interlock Program – routinely called the ignition interlock exception. This exception became a major player in the world of DWI forfeitures. No longer could prosecutors say they were never giving the vehicle back to someone. If they did, motions could follow asking the court to order the vehicle back to the driver, if they fulfilled the requirements of this new exception.

Even if a driver satisfies the requirements to get their forfeited vehicle back under the ignition interlock exception, prosecutors can still require an owner or driver to post a bond, or give other security, in an amount equal to the retail value of the seized vehicle. Prosecutors used this to hold over people’s heads because, in part, they knew it is difficult for people to obtain bonds for property, such as vehicles. Further, prosecutors wanted some collateral if the person violated the terms of the ignition interlock exception by picking up a new DWI or failing out of the ignition interlock program.

The new change to the ignition interlock exception would include eliminating that bond, or other security, requirement. Instead, in its place, would be surrendering the title to the vehicle. This would eliminate the issues of drivers and owners coming up with a bond, or security for the vehicle, and avoiding all the problems that came with that. Financially, it proved to be incredibly difficult for people to secure a bond. If all the driver, or owner, has to do is surrender title, then it virtually eliminates that financial hardship. If the driver then completes the ignition interlock program, then they would get the title to the vehicle back. The agency in possession of the vehicle could still require the owner, or driver, to pay reasonable costs of towing, seizure, and storage.

This is a common-sense, and practicable, change to the ignition interlock exception. Even though the bill is facing opposition in the Minnesota State Senate, we can hope that reasonable minds will come together and amend the ignition interlock exception for the better.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense lawyer and DWI attorney in Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him a Rising Star for the past five years; and the National Trial Lawyer’s Organization named him a Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyer the past seven years. He is an adjunct professor at both the University of Minnesota Law School and Hamline Mitchell School of Law. DWI Attorney Woodbury MN; Criminal Defense Attorney Minnesota; and DWI Vehicle Forfeiture Lawyer.

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