A Minnesota asset forfeiture report included for the first time whether criminal convictions were used for seized goods, showing that Minnesota law enforcement seized and kept more than $3.1 million in cash, vehicles and property from people not convicted of criminal wrongdoing, about one-third of the total asset forfeiture. Hennepin County task forces were especially active, News From The States reports. The remaining $6 million seized came from cases in which convictions were obtained. The data come from the annual asset forfeiture report published by State Auditor Julie Blaha.
Civil liberties groups have long criticized the practice of asset forfeiture, which allows police to take property from people merely suspected of committing a crime. A criminal conviction is not required, and criminal charges often aren’t even filed. Because law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep a percentage of the assets they seize, critics say the practice creates a perverse profit motive that’s ripe for abuse. The data show considerable variation in forfeiture practices among Minnesota agencies. Some departments reported convictions for every forfeiture they processed, while others obtained convictions for 20% or fewer of their cases. Convictionless forfeitures yielded close to $400,000 in revenue in 2022. In 2022 Minnesota law enforcement agencies received $1.9 million in proceeds from joint federal investigations. The overwhelming majority of those funds arose from investigations for which no criminal conviction was recorded in the data. The small-dollar amounts involved in many forfeiture cases suggest that officers are, at best, targeting low-level dealers rather than powerful kingpins. At worst, they may simply be seizing cash from people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.