(The Center Square) – Minnesota State Auditor General Julie Blaha released the 2022 asset forfeiture report showing a 35% drop in completed forfeitures over the past five years.
“The decrease over the past five years is dramatic,” Blaha said in a statement.
The data in the Asset Forfeitures and Forfeiture Expenditures report highlights trends in the volume and value of forfeitures, the types of property seized and forfeited, underlying offenses leading to asset seizure and forfeiture, and how forfeiture proceeds were spent.
Bipartisan legislation passed in 2021 put new limits on certain cash and vehicle forfeitures, and required reporting all forfeitures pursued under federal statutes, and how forfeiture proceeds were expended.
“Due in part to the new forfeiture legislation, the number of completed asset forfeitures decreased by 15% between 2021 and 2022,” Blaha said.
In Minnesota, the most common criminal activities leading to asset forfeiture were driving under the influence and controlled substance offenses, which accounted for 83% of the reported forfeitures.
Over the last five years, the total number of DUI and controlled substance-related forfeitures decreased by 44% and 36%, respectively.
In 2022, the total net value of forfeitures less than $1,500 was $987,601. The total net value of forfeitures less than $1,500 in 2021 was about $1.2 million.
Law enforcement agencies reported net proceeds of $8.5 million from asset forfeitures in 2022. Net proceeds are derived from forfeited cash, property sold or another agreement or program.
In 2022, 275 Minnesota law enforcement agencies reported a total of 5,094 completed forfeitures pursued under state law. Of the 275 law enforcement agencies, 12 reported an additional 186 completed forfeitures pursued under federal law. This compares to 6,217 completed forfeitures in 2021.
Of the 5,280 completed forfeitures reported in 2022, 3,014 involved seized cash, property sold, or an agreement required the participating agency to receive monetary compensation. The total value of net proceeds from these forfeitures was $8.5 million.
Report highlights include:
- In 2022, for all completed forfeitures pursued under state law, gross sales of forfeited property or seized cash totaled $9,028,740; administrative expenses and lienholders’ obligations totaled $11.6 million, the amount returned totaled $1.1 million, and net proceeds totaled $6.6 million.
- In 2022, the total proceeds of all completed forfeitures pursued under federal law received through the equitable sharing program totaled $1.8 million.
- The agencies with 100 or more completed forfeitures in 2022 were: the Minnesota State Patrol (1,140); Department of Natural Resources, Enforcement Division (265); Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force (112); and Wright County Sheriff’s Office (110). The number of law enforcement agencies reporting 100 or more completed forfeitures decreased from eight in 2021 to four in 2022.
- In 2022, vehicles accounted for 56% of property seized, followed by cash at 24%, firearms at 19%, and other property at one percent.
The Minnesota Legislature authorized local law enforcement agencies to use forfeited property for law enforcement purposes or to sell the property and use the profits for authorized agency activities in 1971.