The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right of police to confiscate vehicles from owners who have done nothing wrong. The decision narrowed the applicability of an "innocent owner" defense in cases where a vehicle is jointly owned. The high court considered the case of David and Jean Margaret Laase whose then-brand new 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe was confiscated in 2006.
Although David Laase was the Tahoe's primary driver, Jean Laase was driving the SUV alone on May 17, 2007 when she was pulled over and accused of drunk driving. Because Laase refused to submit to a breath test, the $40,000 vehicle was permanently confiscated as punishment for "second-degree criminal test refusal."
David Laase challenged the seizure on the grounds that his property had been taken from him even though he had done nothing wrong. State law appears to provide an exception for such cases.
"A motor vehicle is not subject to forfeiture under this section if its owner can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the owner did not have actual or constructive knowledge that the vehicle would be used or operated in any manner contrary to law," Minnesota Statutes Section 169A.63 states. "...If a motor vehicle is owned jointly by two or more people, each owner's interest extends to the whole of the vehicle and is not subject to apportionment."
The 4-3 majority on the court, led by Justice Lorie Gildea, concluded that it is sufficient for one owner to be guilty to nullify the innocent owner defense. It did so by construing the statute to mean that "all owners" must be innocent in order to block forfeiture.
"Because interests cannot be apportioned, the legislature seemingly intended that what happens to one owner should happen to all owners," Gildea wrote. "The legislature could have written that, if the vehicle is jointly owned, the owner who is not the offender may assert the defense. In that case, the defense would be available to any owner who is not an offender."
Justice Paul Anderson disagreed with the majority's interpretation, insisting that the ambiguous law should be read in a way limits, not broadens, state power.
"Given that the power to seize a person's property carries with it the potential for misuse, courts of justice must carefully scrutinize how the government exercises that power," Anderson wrote. "The context within which we must conduct our analysis is a disfavored forfeiture statute that we must strictly construe which means that if we have any doubt about the application of the statute, that doubt is to be resolved in favor of joint owner David Laase. Here, some initial doubt with respect to the application of section 169A.63 exists because nowhere does the statute provide that the innocent owner defense is not available to a non-offending joint owner such as David Laase."
The majority countered that it was the job of the legislature, not the courts, to limit the applicability of a law.
"We recognize that the result in this case may be open to question on policy grounds, and we do not disagree with Justice Paul Anderson's view about the importance of private property rights." Gildea wrote. "But in the absence of a constitutional challenge, which we do not have in this case, it is the role of the legislature, not the courts, to rewrite the statute to provide greater protection for private property. The public policy arguments therefore should be advanced to the legislature, the body that crafted the language that compels the result here."
NO CONVICTION REQUIRED
"The innocent owner defense in Minn. Stat. § 169A.63, subd. 7(d) (2008), does not apply in a case of joint ownership of a vehicle if one of the joint owners is also the offender causing forfeiture of the vehicle."
-Minnesota Supreme Court, Laase v 2007 Chevy Tahoe
The key is titling the vehicle in a corporation, trust or DBA sole proprietorship.
Lawyers never argue the forfeiture law, DUI "consent" (duress) law, and traffic stops are unconstitutional due to the constitutional right to travel.
This lawyer was probably incompetent at DUI law, since only 1% of lawyers are certified DUI specialists.
"There's a report out tonight that 24-years ago I was apprehended in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a DUI. That's an accurate story. I'm not proud of that. I oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much and I did on that night. I was pulled over. I admitted to the policeman that I had been drinking. I paid a fine. And I regret that it happened. But it did. I've learned my lesson."
—President George W. Bush, CNN Larry King Live, November 2, 2000
"Cheney’s first DWI conviction came in November 1962 when he was 21. According to the docket from Cheyenne’s Municipal Court, Cheney was arrested for drunkenness and 'operating motor vehicle while intoxicated.' A Cheyenne Police Judge found Cheney guilty of the two charges and hit him with a 30-day suspension of his driver’s license. Cheney also had to forfeit a $150 bond posted at the time of his arrest. Further information about the case - such as the defendant’s blood alcohol content or whether Cheney was jailed following the arrest - is unavailable since other court records from that period have been destroyed, according to Wyoming officials. Details of Cheney’s second Wyoming arrest in July 1963, have also fallen victim to time and records destruction practices at the local Municipal Court. But a police arrest card maintained by the Rock Springs Police Department shows that Cheney was fined $100 for his second DWI conviction. The card lists the charge against Cheney, who was then working as a groundman laying power lines, as '11-44,' the criminal code classification for drunken driving, according to Police Chief Neil Kourbelas. At the time of the Rock Springs arrest, Kourbelas said that local cops and judges would not have known that young Cheney was a repeat offender. The police department, Kourbelas said, 'wouldn’t have had the ability to automatically check with other jurisdictions to find out if anyone had prior arrests or convictions. We could have arrested Jack the Ripper back then and had no idea what he had done.'”
-Allen Trapp, GaDUIblog.com, Top 50 DUI Arrests of All-Time, February 16, 2007
"Strictly speaking, a driver can register a BAC of 0.00% and still be convicted of a DUI. The level of BAC does not clear a driver when it is below the 'presumed level of intoxication.'"
—Tennessee Driver Handbook and Driver License Study Guide
"One of the major defects in many methods of blood-alcohol analysis is the failure to identify ethanol to the exclusion of all other chemical compounds. Thus a client with other compounds in his blood or breath may have a high 'blood-alcohol' reading with little or no ethanol in his body. If you look at the warranties - it is sort of interesting - none of the breath machine manufacturers warrant these things to actually test blood alcohol."
—Lawrence Taylor, attorney at law, Drunk Driving Defense, 5th Edition (2000)
"Nancy Benoit also had a blood alcohol reading of .184, although Sperry said the blood alcohol and drug levels could be affected by the decomposition of her body. 'These (blood alcohol) results are not reliable for interpretation because the amount of alcohol in her system could have all come from the decomposition.'"
—Cindy Morley, Fayette Daily News, GBI: Chris Benoit's son was full of Xanax, July 18, 2007
"Let me start with law enforcement contacts with respect to traffic stops, for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Fifth amendment of the Bill of Rights states that we are not to be forced to incrimnate ourselves. The actual wording is, you cannot be compelled to be a witness against yourself. If you are stopped for suspicion of DUI, these are your rights regardless of the laws of your state. First of all, you are to deny having consumed any alcoholic beverages whatsoever. You are never to admit to having one or two drinks. If you admit to consuming even one drop of alcohol, you open the door to 'probable cause', allowing the police officer to search your car for open containers. Next, you are never to submit to a Field Sobriety Test. You are to refuse to do so. They cannot make you walk the line, they cannot make you balance or anything else. Now when you are arrested, you are to refuse to allow a blood-alcohol test, regardless of what state law 'requires', such as revocation of driving priveleges for a period of time. That's an attempt to compel you to be a witness against yourself. Supreme Court decisions in this area are very specific with regards to your rights as folows: Lefkowitz vs Turley, and the Fifth Amendment, provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, and permits him to refuse to any any other qustions put to him in any other proceeding, civil or criminal, formal or informal, where the answers might incriminate him in future criminal proceedings."
—George Gordon Law Hour, "The Policeman is not your friend - He is your adversary," October 30, 2007
"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
-President Abraham Lincoln (Rothschild), unlicensed attorney at law
"I saw two officers as before, who rode up to me, with their pistols in their hands, said God damn you stop, if go an Inch further, you are a dead Man, and swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would blow our brains out. Major Mitchel of the 5th Regt clapd his Pistol to my head, and said he was going to ask me some questions, if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out. I told him I esteemed myself a man of truth, that he had stopped me on the highway, & made me a prisoner, I knew not by what right; I would tell him the truth; I was not afraid."
—Paul Revere, owner of RevereWare¨, sworn affidavit: "Memorandum on Events of April 18, 1775" (declassified Top Secret), while under arrest (and subsequent escape) from Redcoat martial-law traffic police at Minute Man National Historic Park, Paul Revere Capture Site, on the eve of the American Revolutionary War and kicking off the Battle of Lexington and Concord, against the army, navy and courts of King George III, heriditary dictator of England who attempted "gun control" by an Assault Weapons Ban of defensive 50-caliber muskets and cannon, Paul Revere's Ride, by David Hackett Fischer
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