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Forfeiture — Nature — Remedy for Wrongful Disposition of Seized Property by State

City of Milwaukee v. Sammie L. Glass, 2001 WI 61, affirming 2000 WI App 252, 239 Wis. 2d 373, 620 N.W.2d 213


¶19 Considering the aims and objects of a Wis. Stat. § 968.20 action and the procedure set forth in Wis. Stat. § 968.20, we conclude that Wis. Stat. § 968.20 establishes an in rem proceeding. The court reached this same conclusion in a recent case.8

¶20 We now turn to whether the plaintiff may obtain monetary damages from the City in this proceeding under Wis. Stat. § 968.20. He cannot. Wisconsin Stat. § 968.20 does not expressly state that a circuit court may award monetary damages if seized property is not returned. Furthermore, the circuit court did not obtain personal jurisdiction over the City in accordance with the statutes governing civil actions, a prerequisite for awarding monetary damages against the City.9

¶21 We have concluded that a proceeding under § 968.20 is a proceeding in rem to determine true ownership of specific property. A judgment in an in rem proceeding is valid only against the specific property and not against a defendant or a defendant’s other assets.10


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