Judge Rules MN Police Cannot Claim Insurance Payment in Car Forfeiture

St. Paul, MN – The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Savage Police Department was incorrect in seizing a possible insurance payment on a vehicle that a local man’s son stole and crashed.

Roger Briles and his wife were on a camping trip when his son Andrew took Briles’ 2013 GMC Terrain on a “joyride” according to a decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Savage Police saw the vehicle speeding, and Andrew led them on a high-speed chase before crashing the car. He blew a 0.22 blood alcohol concentration.

“My client’s son was arrested while driving his vehicle without his permission,” Briles’ lawyer James Ventura said, “Normally that would mean it is not forfeitable under the DWI statute.”

The Savage Police disagreed, and notified Briles that they would be seizing his vehicle. They did this under Minnesota Statute 169A.63 which governs conditions under which vehicles may be forfeited.  

Briles accepted the decision because he planned on collecting the insurance payment on the now wrecked car. He did not file a complaint regarding the forfeiture within the designated 60-day window not knowing the Savage PD planned on taking any insurance payment that Briles might receive as part of the forfeiture along with his vehicle.

Because the window to file a complaint about the forfeiture had closed, the Savage Police rejected Briles’ contention regarding the forfeiture of any insurance payment on the car.

“They really should have given us notice,” Ventura said, “Whatever they sent to the insurance company they should have sent to us. What they sent him said they were forfeiting his car, it didn’t say anything about the insurance.”

The insurance payment was placed on hold as the Savage Police Department’s letter to Progressive Insurance implied the department had a right to any payment made on the vehicle. Briles only found out about this after the 60-day window had already elapsed. He then tried to file a complaint, but had it rejected based on its timing.

The court dismissed Briles’ argument that the Savage Police Department was wrong to deny his complaint outside of the 60-day window.

The court did side with Briles in his view that the police incorrectly construed the statute’s phrasing of, “all right, title, and interest in a vehicle subject to forfeiture,” to include any insurance proceeds from a vehicle. The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the decision of district court in this regard. The court found that the statute used to forfeit Briles’ vehicle has a limited scope of use, and that the Savage Police Department’s attempt to seize any insurance payment did not fall within those limits.

An insurance payment decision is still pending until such time as any possible appeals are resolved.

We have 30 days from the day of the opinion to file an appeal,” Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar said, “We are reviewing the opinion and relevant case law and we will be making a decision whether to appeal.”

“I think it is bullet proof,” Ventura said, “I don’t think anyone at the Supreme Court is gonna say no. The [Minnesota Court of Appeals] judge took much of his decision from my brief.”

The Savage Police Department did not return a request for comment in time for publication.

Anders Koskinen