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Minnesota collected nearly $8.9 million in civil forfeitures last year

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Minnesota State Auditor Julie Blaha on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, shared the results of the 2018 Asset Forfeiture Report, which showed a slight increase in property forfeited to the state. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL -- Minnesota law enforcement agencies seized 3% more property involved in the commission of crimes in 2018 than they did the year prior.

While the increase in the total number of properties seized was slight, the money the state took in from the cash and sale of the forfeitures grew 18%, a report released Thursday, Aug. 15, from the State Auditor's Office shows.

In all, 317 law enforcement agencies in the state completed 8,091 forfeitures last year, compared to 7,852 in 2017. The bulk of those, nearly 61%, were vehicles seized after drivers were convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

"So this really is a story about drug and alcohol use and abuse," State Auditor Julie Blaha said at a Capitol press conference.

Under state law, the property associated with criminal offenses can be confiscated. Most often, the person who commits the offense has his or her property taken but stolen property used to commit a crime can be taken too.

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Net proceeds from the collection of cash and sale of 4,895 forfeitures brought in almost $8.3 million last year, up almost 18% from the year prior. The other 3,196 forfeitures were returned, destroyed or not counted toward the proceeds for other reasons.

The number of completed forfeitures has ticked up 18% since 2014 and the largest category of items forfeited ranged in value from $100 to $499.

Controlled substance-related and DUI-related offenses fueled 90% of the forfeitures last year. Each category of forfeitures grew slightly from 2017 and have been inching up since 2014. DUI-related forfeitures have grown 21% since 2014 and controlled-substance-related seizures have increased 13% in that period.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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