Attorney Max A. Keller Helps Convince Minnesota Supreme Court that Exclusionary Rule Applies to Civil Forfeiture Cases

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The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applies to civil forfeiture cases. Max Keller from Keller Law Offices wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice in support of the position.

Attorney Max A. Keller

This is a big win for claimants who have been subjected to illegal searches.

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the Fourth Amendment exclusionary rule applies to civil forfeiture cases. Max Keller from Keller Law Offices wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice in the position.

The issue arose in the case of Garcia-Mendoza v. 2003 Chevy Tahoe, et. al. According to court documents, the claimant in the case – Daniel Garcia-Mendoza – had been stopped by police officers and did not have a valid driver’s license. He was given a citation, and the police then impounded his vehicle and searched it. During the search, police found 225 grams of methamphetamine in the vehicle and approximately $600 in Garcia-Mendoza's possession. Garcia-Mendoza was charged with first-degree possession of a controlled substance, and his vehicle and money were both seized. Garcia-Mendoza contested the forfeiture and filed a civil complaint against the State of Minnesota. Both the trial court and appellate court supported the State's motion for summary judgment in the civil suit, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the lower courts' decisions, finding that the traffic stop was unconstitutional, and remanded the case.

"This is a big win for claimants who have been subjected to illegal searches," said Max A. Keller, who wrote an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice. "It would be a miscarriage of justice if a conviction was overturned and remanded but the defendant couldn't get his or her property back."

Civil forfeiture is a legal process that gives the police department the power to take property connected to a crime. But in its decision, the Minnesota Supreme court stated that the exclusionary rule applies to civil forfeiture cases and that, because the evidence was illegally obtained, it must be excluded with the property returned to its owner.

"This is an important and notable win for defense lawyers across the state," said Keller. "Now we have resounding affirmation of the U.S. Supreme Court's case law."

About Keller Law Offices

Keller Law Offices is a full-service criminal defense law firm that defends clients throughout Minnesota in a variety of criminal charges, including DWI (driving while intoxicated), drug crimes, sex crimes, white collar crimes, and traffic violations. Keller Law Offices represents clients facing both misdemeanor and felony charges, at the trial level and on appeal.

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Max A. Keller

Rafi Arbel
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