State Auditor Blaha Releases 2020 Asset Forfeiture Report - August 19, 2021
Data supports 2019 call to action on small forfeitures
Saint Paul, MN – This morning State Auditor Julie Blaha released the 2020 Asset Forfeiture Report. The data provided highlights trends in values and the number of forfeitures as well as the types of property and crimes involved.
“The 2020 data supports my call to action last year,” said Blaha. “76 percent of forfeitures, resulting in net proceeds, were under $1,500 in 2020 and added up to $1.2 million. These forfeitures are a small impact on law enforcement’s budgets, but could have a big impact on a person’s life. Having a few hundred dollars seized can mean the difference between making rent or homelessness. Losing that old car can lead to missing work and losing your job.”
The total net value of forfeitures, resulting in net proceeds, under $1,500 in Minnesota in 2019 was approximately $1.5 million. In 2020, with a significant decrease in completed forfeitures due to suspended court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the total net value of similar forfeitures under $1,500 was approximately $1.2 million.
“I applaud the bipartisan forfeiture reform legislation that will restrict small forfeitures starting in 2022,” added Blaha. “It’s worth noting that our data won’t reflect these changes for one to two years.”
Law enforcement agencies reported net proceeds of $5.6 million from asset forfeitures in 2020. Net proceeds are derived from forfeited cash or property, or an agreement that required monetary compensation. That includes property seized under both criminal and civil forfeitures. This year’s report again shows that in Minnesota, the most common criminal activities leading to asset forfeiture were Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and controlled substance, accounting for 85 percent of the reported forfeitures. Over the last five years, the total number of DUI and controlled substance related forfeitures decreased 16 and 33 percent, respectively.
Highlights of the report include:
- In 2020, 298 Minnesota law enforcement agencies reported a total of 5,785 completed forfeitures. This compares to 7,708 completed forfeitures in 2019.
- Of the 5,785 completed forfeitures reported in 2020, 3,270 involved seized cash, property that was sold, or an agreement that required monetary compensation to the agency. The total value of net proceeds from these forfeitures was $5,614,419.
- In 2020, gross sales of forfeited property or seized cash totaled $8,016,229; administrative expenses and lienholders’ obligations totaled $1,388,684; amount returned totaled $1,221,949; and net proceeds totaled $5,614,419.
- The agencies with 100 or more completed forfeitures in 2020 were: the Minnesota State Patrol (1,074); Department of Natural Resources, Enforcement Division (DNR) (417); Wright County Sheriff’s Office (134); Saint Paul Police Department (115); and Minneapolis Police Department (112).
- In 2020, vehicles accounted for 61 percent of property seized, followed by cash at 21 percent, firearms at 15 percent, and other property at two percent.
- The most common criminal activities leading to seizure, forfeiture, and final disposition of property in 2020 were DUI-related and controlled substance, accounting for 85 percent of the forfeitures. DUI-related forfeitures accounted for 2,635, or 46 percent, of reported forfeitures, while forfeitures involving a controlled substance accounted for 2,308, or 40 percent, of reported forfeitures. The remaining forfeitures involved game and fish violations (416), fleeing (254), prostitution (53), weapons (45), “other” crimes (38), robbery/theft (14), assault (12), and burglary (10).
- For 2020, 148 agencies reported that they did not process any property under the forfeiture statutes, compared to 134 in 2019.
The forfeitures presented in this report only reflect property forfeited under Minnesota state statutes. Property forfeited under federal statutes is reported to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury (USDT). The data can be found on the DOJ website and the USDT website.
For background purposes, the Minnesota Legislature authorized local law enforcement agencies to use forfeited property for law enforcement purposes or sell the property and use the proceeds of the sale for authorized agency activities in 1971. State laws governing property that is subject to forfeiture proceedings, and the actual disposition of the forfeited property, have changed considerably since inception. A more detailed history of Minnesota forfeiture legislation can be found on pages 3-5 of the report.
Click here to view the complete report.