For the third time in a little more than 2 years the Anderson Law Firm will be going back to the Minnesota Supreme Court on a civil forfeiture case. Today, the Supreme Court granted the Petition for Review of the decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals in Garcia-Mendoza v. 2003 Chevy Tahoe. Read the Court of Appeals decision here.
In this matter, our client’s vehicle was stopped by law enforcement and a warrantless search was performed of the vehicle. During the warrantless search law enforcement discovered a controlled substance and law enforcement subsequently sought to forfeit Mr. Garcia-Mendoza’s vehicle as well as all the money that he had in his possession. The district court made a specific finding that the warrantless stop and search of Mr. Garcia-Mendoza’s vehicle violated his constitutional rights. Nonetheless, the district court ordered the property forfeited because Mr. Garcia-Mendoza had entered into a plea agreement for another offense in U.S. District Court.
The Court of Appeals property determined that Mr. Garcia-Mendoza’s plea in U.S. District Court had no relevance to the forfeiture matter in State Court. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeals affirmed the forfeiture because the Fourth Amendment’s Exclusionary Rule does not apply to civil forfeitures.
Mr. Garcia-Mendoza sought review and the Supreme Court granted the petition. The Minnesota Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of whether the Exclusionary Rule under either the U.S. Constitution or the Minnesota Constitution is applicable to civil forfeitures. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has previously held that civil forfeitures are quasi-criminal and thus the Fourth Amendment applies.
The parties will submit written briefs to the Supreme Court over the next few months, and then an oral argument will be held shortly thereafter.