The following are declared to be contraband and therefore subject to civil and criminal penalties under this chapter:
(a) Cigarette packages which do not have stamps affixed to them as provided in this chapter, including but not limited to (i) packages with illegible stamps and packages with stamps that are not complete or whole even if the stamps are legible, and (ii) all devices for the vending of cigarettes in which packages as defined in item (i) are found, including all contents contained within the devices.
(b) A device for the vending of cigarettes and all packages of cigarettes, where the device does not afford at least partial visibility of contents. Where any package exposed to view does not carry the stamp required by this chapter, it shall be presumed that all packages contained in the device are unstamped and contraband.
(c) A device for the vending of cigarettes to which the commissioner or authorized agents have been denied access for the inspection of contents. In lieu of seizure, the commissioner or an agent may seal the device to prevent its use until inspection of contents is permitted.
(d) A device for the vending of cigarettes which does not carry the name and address of the owner, plainly marked and visible from the front of the machine.
(e) A device including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, trailers, snowmobiles, airplanes, and boats used with the knowledge of the owner or of a person operating with the consent of the owner for the storage or transportation of more than 5,000 cigarettes which are contraband under this subdivision. When cigarettes are being transported in the course of interstate commerce, or are in movement from either a public warehouse to a distributor upon orders from a manufacturer or distributor, or from one distributor to another, the cigarettes are not contraband, notwithstanding the provisions of clause (a).
(f) A device including, but not limited to, motor vehicles, trailers, snowmobiles, airplanes, and boats used with the knowledge of the owner, or of a person operating with the consent of the owner, for the storage or transportation of untaxed tobacco products intended for sale in Minnesota other than those in the possession of a licensed distributor on or before the due date for payment of the tax under section 297F.09, subdivision 2.
(g) Cigarette packages or tobacco products obtained from an unlicensed seller.
(h) Cigarette packages offered for sale or held as inventory in violation of section 297F.20, subdivision 7.
(i) Tobacco products on which the tax has not been paid by a licensed distributor.
(j) Any cigarette packages or tobacco products offered for sale or held as inventory for which there is not an invoice from a licensed seller as required under section 297F.13, subdivision 4.
(k) Cigarette packages which have been imported into the United States in violation of United States Code, title 26, section 5754. All cigarettes held in violation of that section shall be presumed to have entered the United States after December 31, 1999, in the absence of proof to the contrary.
(l) Cigarettes subject to forfeiture under section 299F.854, subdivision 5, and cigarette packaging and markings, including the cigarettes contained therein, which do not meet the requirements under section 299F.853, paragraph (a).
Cigarettes, tobacco products, or other property made contraband by subdivision 1 may be seized by the commissioner or authorized agents or by any sheriff or other police officer, with or without process, and are subject to forfeiture as provided in subdivision 3.
(a) Within ten days after the seizure of any alleged contraband, the person making the seizure shall serve by certified mail an inventory of the property seized on the person from whom the seizure was made, if known, and on any person known or believed to have any right, title, interest, or lien in the property, at the last known address, and file a copy with the commissioner. The notice must include an explanation of the right to demand a judicial forfeiture determination.
(b) Within 60 days after the date of service of the inventory, which is the date of mailing, the person from whom the property was seized or any person claiming an interest in the property may file a demand for a judicial determination of the question as to whether the property was lawfully subject to seizure and forfeiture. The demand must be in the form of a civil complaint and must be filed with the court administrator in the county in which the seizure occurred, together with proof of service of a copy of the complaint on the commissioner of revenue, and the standard filing fee for civil actions unless the petitioner has the right to sue in forma pauperis under section 563.01. If the value of the seized property is $15,000 or less, the claimant may file an action in conciliation court for recovery of the property. If the value of the seized property is less than $500, the claimant does not have to pay the conciliation court filing fee.
(c) The complaint must be captioned in the name of the claimant as plaintiff and the seized property as defendant, and must state with specificity the grounds on which the claimant alleges the property was improperly seized and the plaintiff's interest in the property seized. No responsive pleading is required of the commissioner, and no court fees may be charged for the commissioner's appearance in the matter. The proceedings are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure. Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, an action for the return of property seized under this section may not be maintained by or on behalf of any person who has been served with an inventory unless the person has complied with this subdivision. The court shall decide whether the alleged contraband is contraband, as defined in subdivision 1. The court shall hear the action without a jury and shall try and determine the issues of fact and law involved.
(d) When a judgment of forfeiture is entered, unless the judgment is stayed pending an appeal, the commissioner:
(1) may authorize the forfeited property to be used for the purpose of enforcing a criminal provision of state or federal law;
(2) shall cause forfeited cigarette packages or tobacco products not used under clause (1) to be destroyed and products used under clause (1) to be destroyed upon the completion of use; and
(3) may cause the forfeited property, other than forfeited cigarette packages or tobacco products, to be sold at public auction as provided by law.
The person making a sale, after deducting the expense of keeping the property, the fee for seizure, and the costs of the sale, shall pay all liens according to their priority, which are established as being bona fide and as existing without the lienor having any notice or knowledge that the property was being used or was intended to be used for or in connection with the violation. The balance of the proceeds must be paid 75 percent to the Department of Revenue for deposit as a supplement to its operating fund or similar fund for official use, and 25 percent to the county attorney or other prosecuting agency that handled the court proceeding, if there is one, for deposit as a supplement to its operating fund or similar fund for prosecutorial purposes. If there is no prosecuting authority involved in the forfeiture, the 25 percent of the proceeds otherwise designated for the prosecuting authority must be deposited into the general fund.
(e) If no demand for judicial determination is made, the property seized is considered forfeited to the state by operation of law and may be disposed of by the commissioner as provided in the case of a judgment of forfeiture.