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Minessota law allows police to confiscate and sell cars, with 14,000 vehicles seized over the past three years.

Law makers are pushing to reform the controversial state forfeiture law allowing US police to seize property, cash, and vechiles.

Law makers are pushing to reform the controversial state forfeiture law allowing US police to seize property, cash, and vechiles.An investigation by ABC affiliated news site KTSP found that 14,000 cars have been seized by police over the last three years, generating nearly $10 million for police departments. The information was gathered from statewide data.

The investigation was prompted by the case of a Minnesota woman, whose car was seized after she was accused of drunk driving, even though she had not been driving and had never been charged. Emma Dietrich stated that her colleague had offered to drive her home as she feared she might be over the limit. It turned out that the coworker had a charge of DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), which Dietrich claims she had been unaware of. In response, police took the vehicle, acting under Minnesota's forfeiture law. Dietrich was later forced to buy back the car that had been confiscated in 2013 for $13,000.

KTSP notes that State Representative John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul and other lawmakers have repeatedly authored bills to reform asset forfeiture in Minnesota, but that all attempts so far have failed.

An article in Reuters from 2017 states that "civil asset forfeitures," which can allow cops to take cash, vehicles, and housing, can be particularly damaging to the poor and migrants, who are disproportionately more likely to be targets and feel the financial burden of these laws. As police departments get to keep the seized items, there is a financial incentive to act on the law.

In 2019, the Supreme Court tried to intervene to stop the abuse of the civil forfeiture law. In one case, Timbs v. Indiana, a man who had had his vehicle and property taken by police after being charged with possession of a small amount of heroin, the supreme court ruled that "excessive fines" rules which can control how much people are charged, applies to states, and that this includes forfeiture laws. Media outlets have noted that while this has not yet led to a change in the law, it has paved the way for similar cases.

NBC points out that there are cases where applying the law is legitimate, such as seizing back property or cars that thieves have stolen, but that has been misused and is "subject to arbitrary exercises in state power."

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