546 N.W.2d 300 (Minn.App. 1996), C6-95-1688, City of New Hope v. 1986 Mazda 626, License No. POC147

Docket Nº:C6-95-1688.
Citation:546 N.W.2d 300
Opinion Judge:The opinion of the court was delivered by: Klaphake
Party Name:CITY OF NEW HOPE, Appellant, v. 1986 MAZDA 626, LICENSE NO. POC147, Respondent.
Attorney:For City of New Hope, Appellant: Martin P. Malecha, Corrick & Sondrall, P.a., Assistant New Hope City Attorney, Brooklyn Park, Mn.
Case Date:April 16, 1996
Court:Court of Appeals of Minnesota

Page 300

546 N.W.2d 300 (Minn.App. 1996)

CITY OF NEW HOPE, Appellant,


1986 MAZDA 626, LICENSE NO. POC147, Respondent.

No. C6-95-1688.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota.

April 16, 1996

Page 301

Syllabus by the Court

1. Civil motor vehicle forfeiture under Minn.Stat. § 169.1217 (1994), may fairly be characterized as serving the remedial goal of protecting the public by removing the instrumentality of the offense.

2. Civil forfeiture of the motor vehicle used by a repeat driving under the influence offender in committing aggravated DWI is rationally related to the statute's remedial purpose, and therefore does not constitute a punishment for purposes of the Minnesota and United States Double Jeopardy Clauses.

Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; Hon. Bruce Hartigan, Judge.

Martin P. Malecha, Corrick & Sondrall, P.A., Assistant New Hope City Attorney, Brooklyn Park, for appellant.

Richard J. Haefele, Chaska, Heidi M. Schmid, Shorewood, for respondent.

Considered and decided by RANDALL, P.J., and LANSING and KLAPHAKE, JJ.



The City of New Hope (city) appeals the trial court's dismissal of its motor vehicle forfeiture action brought under Minn.Stat. § 169.1217 (1994). The trial court concluded that forfeiture of the vehicle used by Lisa Ann Pishney while committing an aggravated DWI constituted a second punishment under the Minnesota and Federal Double Jeopardy Clauses because she had previously been convicted and sentenced for that aggravated DWI. We conclude that the motor vehicle forfeiture statute is rationally related to remedial purpose, does not constitute a second punishment for the same offense, and therefore does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the Minnesota and Federal Constitutions. Consequently, we reverse and order summary judgment for the city on its forfeiture action against the 1986 Mazda.


This appeal concerns a forfeiture action involving a 1986 Mazda automobile owned by Lisa Ann Pishney. The city filed a complaint setting out various impaired driving statutes violated when Pishney drove the Mazda at 2:03 a.m. on October 23, 1993. 1 The complaint alleged she drove the Mazda while under the influence of alcohol and before her license had been reinstated after cancellation for previous alcohol-related driving violations under Minn.Stat. § 171.04, subd. 1(8) (1994). 2 The record also reflects that Pishney had prior DWIs and license revocations for impaired driving in 1984, 1985, and 1992.

While this forfeiture action was pending, Pishney pleaded guilty and was convicted of aggravated DWI under Minn.Stat. § 169.129

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(1994), for the October 23, 1993 incident. 3 Based on that criminal conviction, Pishney moved to dismiss this separate civil forfeiture action, contending that she had already been punished by the sentence she received for the aggravated DWI, and that forfeiture of her car would be a second punishment for the same offense.

The trial court granted Pishney's motion to dismiss, denied the city's request for summary judgment, and entered judgment for Pishney, concluding that the motor vehicle forfeiture constituted a second punishment and violated the Minnesota and Federal Double Jeopardy Clauses.


Does civil forfeiture of a motor vehicle used in the commission of a designated offense constitute a second punishment when the driver has already been subject to criminal penalties for the designated offense?


Interpretation of a statute is a question of law. In re Blilie, 494 N.W.2d 877, 881 (Minn.1993). That interpretation begins with a presumption of constitutionality that can be rebutted only by establishing a constitutional violation beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. cited in City of Worthington Police Dep't v. One 1988 Chevrolet Berreta, 516 N.W.2d 581, 583 (Minn.App.1994).

The elements of a constitutional violation under the Minnesota or Federal Double Jeopardy Clauses are: two separate actions, arising out of the same offense, and resulting in multiple punishment. United States v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 441, 109 S.Ct. 1892, 1898, 104 L.Ed.2d 487 (1989); State v. Fuller, 374 N.W.2d 722, 726-27 (Minn.1985) (Minnesota's double jeopardy clause interpreted consistently with federal constitution). Because the first two elements are undisputed, the sole issue before us is whether civil forfeiture of the motor vehicle was a second punishment for the aggravated DWI offense.

  1. Minn.Stat. § 169.1217

    The motor vehicle forfeiture statute subjects a vehicle to forfeiture only if the vehicle is "used in the commission of a designated offense." Minn.Stat. § 169.1217, subd. 6 (1994). The "designated offenses" include only violations of state statutes or city ordinances prohibiting driving while under the influence, committed by offenders with certain prior convictions for driving under the influence. Id., subd. 1(b). 4 It is undisputed that Pishney's "designated offense" was her conviction for aggravated DWI under Minn.Stat. § 169.129 before reinstatement of her license after cancellation for previous alcohol-related driving violations under Minn.Stat. § 171.04, subd. 1(8).

  2. Recent Precedent

    Several recent statutory challenges under the Double Jeopardy Clause have produced significant precedent to guide our determination of the constitutionality of Minn.Stat. § 169.1217. From the United States Supreme Court, we rely on Halper, 490 U.S. at 448-49, 109 S.Ct. at 1902, which supplies the

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    test for assessing whether the sanction constitutes prohibited multiple punishment, and the recent Department of Revenue of Montana v. Kurth Ranch, 511 U.S. 767, ----, 114 S.Ct. 1937, 1948, 128 L.Ed.2d 767 (1994), which applied the test. From the Minnesota Supreme Court, we are instructed by State v. Hanson, 543 N.W.2d 84 (Minn.1996), which applied Halper in upholding a state civil statute allowing revocation of a driver's license after conviction for DUI. We are also guided by State v. Rosenfeld, 540 N.W.2d 915, 923 (Minn.App.1995), in which this court applied the double jeopardy analysis to conclude that the forfeitures of instrumentalities of drug crimes do not constitute punishment under the state civil drug forfeiture statute.

  3. The Test of Constitutionality under the Double Jeopardy Clauses

    Under the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the Minnesota and United States Constitutions,

    a defendant who already has been punished in a criminal prosecution may not be subjected to an additional civil sanction to the extent that the second sanction may not fairly be characterized as remedial, but only as a deterrent or retribution.

    Halper, 490 U.S. at 448-49, 109 S.Ct. at 1902. This holding by the Halper court has been variously called the "solely deterrent/retributive" test, Hanson, 543 N.W.2d at 87, and the "fairly characterized as remedial" test, Rosenfeld, 540 N.W.2d at 920. The double jeopardy analysis in either case is the same: the court must determine whether this sanction serves a remedial purpose and is rationally related to that purpose. Halper, 490 U.S. at 447, 109 S.Ct. at 1901. The test

    permits the imposition of a civil sanction that can "fairly be characterized as remedial," but also may deter or punish the offender.

    Hanson, 543 N.W.2d at 87-88. The Halper court cautions that this determination should not be "from the defendant's perspective because even remedial sanctions carry the sting of punishment." 490 U.S. at 447 n. 7, 109 S.Ct. at 1901 n. 7.

    A. Remedial Purpose: Protecting the Public

    The statute does not expressly state its purpose. Because the statute is implicated only by a repeat driving under the influence offense committed by a repeat offender, however, the purpose of the forfeiture statute is the same as the purpose of the other driving under the influence statutes. 5 Hanson explicitly outlines Minnesota's extensive legislative efforts to protect the public from the known danger of intoxicated drivers. 543 N.W.2d at 89. The Hanson court concluded that the license revocation statute had an "overriding" and "primary" remedial purpose of

    protecting the public from those who choose to endanger others by driving in an intoxicated state on our streets and highways.

    Id. at 89.

    Pishney argues that the remedial purpose of protecting public safety has already been met by the revocation of her driver's license and that forfeiture of her vehicle, therefore, is solely punishment. She also contends that forfeiture does not protect public safety because she may borrow or rent another car. We decline to view the forfeiture from this perspective. See Halper, 490 U.S. at 447 n. 7, 109 S.Ct. at 1901 n. 7 (Court rejects invitation to view statutory purpose from defendant's perspective). We conclude that the primary purpose of this forfeiture statute, like the implied consent statute in Hanson, is to protect public safety.

    We are mindful that forfeitures have historically been disfavored, considered punitive in effect, and subjected to careful scrutiny by courts. See, e.g., Jandric v. Skahen, 235 Minn. 256, 260, 50 N.W.2d 625, 628 (1951); St. Louis Co. Atty's Office v. $24,643.01, 524 N.W.2d 542 (Minn.App.1994), review denied (Minn. Feb. 14, 1995). Removal of the "instrumentality" of crimes, however, has repeatedly been upheld as serving a remedial purpose. See ...

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