Democratic State Auditor Julie Blaha called for an end to criminal asset forfeiture under $1,500 because she said it unfairly affects low-income individuals.
Blaha based her assessment on the newly-released 2019 Asset Forfeitures report, which found 94 percent of the crimes resulting in forfeitures were DUIs and controlled substances. For the past five years, DUI-related forfeitures increased by 21 percent while controlled substance-related forfeitures grew by 13 percent.
In the press release, Blaha stated that the revenue generated from these forfeitures was minimal compared to its impact on the owners of the property taken. She added that legislative efforts should continue considerations of reform, referring to the proposed House Bill 4571.
“The total net value of forfeitures under $1,500 in Minnesota in 2019 was approximately $1.5 million. On a system level, a change that size is manageable. On an individual level, those changes could make a big impact,” she said.
Blaha’s highlights of the report stated a total of 7,708 forfeitures, several hundred less than the previous year. A majority of property seizures were vehicles – cash, firearms, and other property only totaled 35 percent.
“If you are managing a public safety budget, small forfeitures are a minor and unpredictable part of your revenue stream,” stated Blaha. “But if you are a low income person experiencing a forfeiture, those amounts can have a big effect on your life. Having a few hundred dollars seized can mean the difference between making rent and homelessness. Losing that old car can lead to missing work and losing your job.”
The reigning controversy concerns financial incentives in forfeitures and its effects on third-party property owners. Under Minnesota law, innocent owners have to prove they weren’t involved in the criminal activity connected to their property. Blaha did not address these issues in her press release.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Minnesota Sun and the Star News Network. Follow her on Twitter or email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota Capitol” by Gabriel Vanslette. CC BY 3.0.