The Minnesota DWI Case Of The Week is Kokosh v. $4657 U.S. Currency (Decided May 30, 2017, Minnesota Court of Appeals, Unpublished) which stands for the proposition that in any forfeiture challenge (including Minnesota DWI vehicle forfeitures) the opposing party must be personally served or acknowledge in writing that they have received the forfeiture complaint in the mail.
The Kokosh case arises from the seizure and administrative forfeiture of $4,675 and a 2000 Lincoln LS automobile by the Minnesota State Patrol. The state patrol personally served Mr. Kokosh with a copy of the notice of seizure and intent to forfeit the property.
On August 6, 2015 Mr. Kokosh’s attorney filed a complaint for judicial determination of the forfeiture in Washington County District Court and he attempted to electronically serve the County Attorney’s office but encountered some technical difficulties. Mr. Kokosh’s attorney was subsequently informed that the complaint was successfully filed and that the county would be served electronically as well. Believing that he had satisfied the requirements for service of process, Kokosh mailed a copy of the complaint to the county and the state patrol, but did not include an acknowledgement of service. The county never acknowledged service of Kokosh’s complaint.
On November 19, the county filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction based on Kokosh’s failure to timely serve a complaint pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.05. The district court agreed and dismissed Kokosh’s case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
On Appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court, noting:
” Jurisdiction to hear a demand for judicial determination of forfeiture attaches when an owner of the affected properly makes a timely demand that meets statutory requirements. Strict compliance is required, and if the owner of the affected property fails to properly serve the demand for judicial determination, no forfeiture action is commenced, and the district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to address the matter.”
“The administrative forfeiture statute provides the means by which a claimant may challenge the forfeiture. Specifically, a claimant may file a demand for judicial determination of forfeiture within 60 days following service of the notice of seizure and forfeiture of properly. Minn. Stat. 609.5314, subd. 3(a). ‘The demand must be in the form of a civil complaint,’ and must be filed with the court administrator ‘together with proof of service’ on the county. Id. Service on the county is by ‘any means permitted by court rules.’ Id. We conclude that, because it is a complaint that must be served on the opposing party in order to commence the civil in rem action, Minn. R. Civ. P. 4 is the only rule that applies. See id. subd. 3(b) (‘[A]n action for the return of property seized under this section may not be maintained. unless [claimant] has complied with this subdivision.’)”
“The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure have a bifurcated system for service with different requirements for service of documents that commence an action and service of documents after an action has already been initiated. See In re Skyline Materials, Ltd. 835 NW.2d 472, 475-76 (Minn. 2013) (explaining difference between rule 4 and rule 5).”
“Service of a complaint when commencing an action must be completed by: (1) personal service under rule 4.03; (2) publication under rule 4.04; or (3) U.S. mail under rule 4.05. When serving a party by mail, service is complete “at the date of acknowledgment of service.” Minn. R. Civ. P. 3.01(b). The rules of civil procedure do not allow for electronic service of a complaint ‘unless consented to by the defendant either in writing or electronically.'”
“After Kokosh unsuccessfully attempted to electronically serve his complaint, he then attempted service by mail rather than by publication or personal service. As a result, service by mail under rule 4.05 is applicable here. Service by mail requires strict compliance and is not effective if the acknowledgment is not signed and returned. See Coons v. St. Paul Cos. 486 N.W.2d 771, 776 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. July 16, 1992). It is uncontested that Kokosh’s initial mailing to the county did not include an acknowledgment of service. Therefore, Kokosh’s attempted service by mail was ineffective.”
“We hold that service of a demand for judicial determination of forfeiture must be completed according to specifically Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 4 and not Rule 5, unless electronic service is consented to by the opposing party. Kokosh did not satisfy the service requirements of the rules of civil procedure, and the county did not consent to electronic service. Accordingly, the district court did not err in dismissing this matter due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”
This case is important as it makes clear that any Minnesota forfeiture (including any Minnesota DWI vehicle forfeiture) is subject to the strict service requirements of a civil action and the failure to comply with the rules will result in the dismissal of the vehicle forfeiture challenge.
Moral Of The Story: If you want to succeed at the game, you have to know the rules!
If you or a loved one have been arrested for a Minnesota DWI, or are facing a DWI forfeiture of your motor vehicle, feel free to contact Minneapolis DWI Lawyer, F. T. Sessoms at (612) 344-1505 for answers to all of your Minnesota DWI questions.