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§ 97-3-54.7. Human Trafficking Act; Forfeiture Of Assets And Disposition Of Proceeds.

(1) In addition to any other civil or criminal penalties provided by law, any property used in the commission of a violation of this act shall be forfeited as provided herein.

(a) The following property shall be subject to forfeiture if used or intended for use as an instrumentality in or used in furtherance of a violation of this act:

(i) Conveyances, including aircraft, vehicles or vessels;

(ii) Books, records, telecommunication equipment, or computers;

(iii) Money or weapons;

(iv) Everything of value furnished, or intended to be furnished, in exchange for an act in violation and all proceeds traceable to the exchange;

(v) Negotiable instruments and securities;

(vi) Any property, real or personal, directly or indirectly acquired or received in a violation or as an inducement to violate;

(vii) Any property traceable to proceeds from a violation; and

(viii) Any real property, including any right, title and interest in the whole of or any part of any lot or tract of land used in furtherance of a violation of this act.

(b) (i) No property used by any person as a common carrier in the transaction of business as a common carrier is subject to forfeiture under this section unless it appears that the owner or other person in charge of the property is a consenting party or privy to a violation of this act;

(ii) No property is subject to forfeiture under this section by reason of any act or omission proved by the owner thereof to have been committed or omitted without his knowledge or consent; if the confiscating authority has reason to believe that the property is a leased or rented property, then the confiscating authority shall notify the owner of the property within five (5) days of the confiscation or within five (5) days of forming reason to believe that the property is a leased or rented property;

(iii) Forfeiture of a property encumbered by a bona fide security interest is subject to the interest of the secured party if he neither had knowledge of nor consented to the act or omission.

(2) No property shall be forfeited under the provisions of this section, to the extent of the interest of an owner, by reason of any act or omission established by him to have been committed or omitted without his knowledge or consent.

(3) Seizure without process may be made if the seizure is incident to an arrest or a search under a search warrant or an inspection under an administrative inspection warrant.

(4) (a) When any property is seized under this section, proceedings shall be instituted within a reasonable period of time from the date of seizure or the subject property shall be immediately returned to the party from whom seized.

(b) A petition for forfeiture shall be filed by the Attorney General or a district attorney in the name of the State of Mississippi, the county, or the municipality, and may be filed in the county in which the seizure is made, the county in which the criminal prosecution is brought, or the county in which the owner of the seized property is found. Forfeiture proceedings may be brought in the circuit court or the county court if a county court exists in the county and the value of the seized property is within the jurisdictional limits of the county court as set forth in Section 9-9-21. A copy of the petition shall be served upon the following persons by service of process in the same manner as in civil cases:

(i) The owner of the property, if address is known;

(ii) Any secured party who has registered his lien or filed a financing statement as provided by law, if the identity of the secured party can be ascertained by the entity filing the petition by making a good faith effort to ascertain the identity of the secured party;

(iii) Any other bona fide lienholder or secured party or other person holding an interest in the property in the nature of a security interest of whom the seizing law enforcement agency has actual knowledge; and

(iv) Any person in possession of property subject to forfeiture at the time that it was seized.

(5) If the property is a motor vehicle susceptible of titling under the Mississippi Motor Vehicle Title Law and if there is any reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle has been titled, inquiry of the Department of Revenue shall be made as to what the records of the Department of Revenue show as to who is the record owner of the vehicle and who, if anyone, holds any lien or security interest that affects the vehicle.

(6) If the property is a motor vehicle and is not titled in the State of Mississippi, then an attempt shall be made to ascertain the name and address of the person in whose name the vehicle is licensed, and if the vehicle is licensed in a state which has in effect a certificate of title law, inquiry of the appropriate agency of that state shall be made as to what the records of the agency show as to who is the record owner of the vehicle and who, if anyone, holds any lien, security interest or other instrument in the nature of a security device that affects the vehicle.

(7) If the property is of a nature that a financing statement is required by the laws of this state to be filed to perfect a security interest affecting the property and if there is any reasonable cause to believe that a financing statement covering the security interest has been filed under the laws of this state, inquiry of the appropriate office designated in Section 75-9-501, shall be made as to what the records show as to who is the record owner of the property and who, if anyone, has filed a financing statement affecting the property.

(8) If the property is an aircraft or part thereof and if there is any reasonable cause to believe that an instrument in the nature of a security device affects the property, inquiry of the Mississippi Department of Transportation shall be made as to what the records of the Federal Aviation Administration show as to who is the record owner of the property and who, if anyone, holds an instrument in the nature of a security device which affects the property.

(9) If the answer to an inquiry states that the record owner of the property is any person other than the person who was in possession of it when it was seized, or states that any person holds any lien, encumbrance, security interest, other interest in the nature of a security interest, mortgage or deed of trust that affects the property, the record owner and also any lienholder, secured party, other person who holds an interest in the property in the nature of a security interest, or holder of an encumbrance, mortgage or deed of trust that affects the property is to be named in the petition of forfeiture and is to be served with process in the same manner as in civil cases.

(10) If the owner of the property cannot be found and served with a copy of the petition of forfeiture, or if no person was in possession of the property subject to forfeiture at the time that it was seized and the owner of the property is unknown, there shall be filed with the clerk of the court in which the proceeding is pending an affidavit to such effect, whereupon the clerk of the court shall publish notice of the hearing addressed to "the Unknown Owner of ," filling in the blank space with a reasonably detailed description of the property subject to forfeiture. Service by publication shall contain the other requisites prescribed in Section 11-33-41, and shall be served as provided in Section 11-33-37, for publication of notice for attachments at law.

(11) No proceedings instituted pursuant to the provisions of this section shall proceed to hearing unless the judge conducting the hearing is satisfied that this section has been complied with. Any answer received from an inquiry required by this section shall be introduced into evidence at the hearing.

(12) (a) An owner of a property that has been seized shall file an answer within thirty (30) days after the completion of service of process. If an answer is not filed, the court shall hear evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture and forfeit the property to the seizing law enforcement agency. If an answer is filed, a time for hearing on forfeiture shall be set within thirty (30) days of filing the answer or at the succeeding term of court if court would not be in session within thirty (30) days after filing the answer. The court may postpone the forfeiture hearing to a date past the time any criminal action is pending against the owner upon request of any party.

(b) If the owner of the property has filed an answer denying that the property is subject to forfeiture, then the burden is on the petitioner to prove that the property is subject to forfeiture. However, if an answer has not been filed by the owner of the property, the petition for forfeiture may be introduced into evidence and is prima facie evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture. The burden of proof placed upon the petitioner in regard to property forfeited under the provisions of this chapter shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.

(c) At the hearing any claimant of any right, title or interest in the property may prove his lien, encumbrance, security interest, other interest in the nature of a security interest, mortgage or deed of trust to be bona fide and created without knowledge or consent that the property was to be used so as to cause the property to be subject to forfeiture.

(d) If it is found that the property is subject to forfeiture, then the judge shall forfeit the property. However, if proof at the hearing discloses that the interest of any bona fide lienholder, secured party, other person holding an interest in the property in the nature of a security interest, or any holder of a bona fide encumbrance, mortgage or deed of trust is greater than or equal to the present value of the property, the court shall order the property released to him. If the interest is less than the present value of the property and if the proof shows that the property is subject to forfeiture, the court shall order the property forfeited.

(13) Unless otherwise provided herein, all personal property which is forfeited under this section shall be liquidated and, after deduction of court costs and the expense of liquidation, the proceeds shall be divided as follows:

(a) If only one (1) law enforcement agency participates in the underlying criminal case out of which the forfeiture arises, fifty percent (50%) of the proceeds shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and deposited in the Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking Fund, and fifty percent (50%) shall be deposited and credited to the budget of the participating law enforcement agency.

(b) If more than one (1) law enforcement agency participates in the underlying criminal case out of which the forfeiture arises, fifty percent (50%) of the proceeds shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and deposited in the Relief for Victims of Human Trafficking Fund, twenty-five percent (25%) of the proceeds shall be deposited and credited to the budget of the law enforcement agency whose officers initiated the criminal case and twenty-five percent (25%) shall be divided equitably between or among the other participating law enforcement agencies, and shall be deposited and credited to the budgets of the participating law enforcement agencies. In the event that the other participating law enforcement agencies cannot agree on the division of their twenty-five percent (25%), a petition shall be filed by any one of them in the court in which the civil forfeiture case is brought and the court shall make an equitable division.

(14) All money forfeited under this section shall be divided, deposited and credited in the same manner as provided in subsection (13).

(15) All real estate forfeited under the provisions of this section shall be sold to the highest and best bidder at a public auction for cash, the auction to be conducted by the chief law enforcement officer of the initiating law enforcement agency, or his designee, at such place, on such notice and in accordance with the same procedure, as far as practicable, as is required in the case of sales of land under execution at law. The proceeds of the sale shall first be applied to the cost and expense in administering and conducting the sale, then to the satisfaction of all mortgages, deeds of trust, liens and encumbrances of record on the property. The remaining proceeds shall be divided, forwarded and deposited in the same manner as provided in subsection (13).

(16) (a) Any county or municipal law enforcement agency may maintain, repair, use and operate for official purposes all property described in subsection (1)(a)(i) of this section that has been forfeited to the agency if it is free from any interest of a bona fide lienholder, secured party or other party who holds an interest in the property in the nature of a security interest. The county or municipal law enforcement agency may purchase the interest of a bona fide lienholder, secured party or other party who holds an interest so that the property can be released for its use. If the property is a motor vehicle susceptible of titling under the Mississippi Motor Vehicle Title Law, the law enforcement agency shall be deemed to be the purchaser, and the certificate of title shall be issued to it as required by subsection (9) of this section.

(b) (i) If a vehicle is forfeited to or transferred to a sheriff's department, then the sheriff may transfer the vehicle to the county for official or governmental use as the board of supervisors may direct.

(ii) If a vehicle is forfeited to or transferred to a police department, then the police chief may transfer the vehicle to the municipality for official or governmental use as the governing authority of the municipality may direct.

(c) If a motor vehicle forfeited to a county or municipal law enforcement agency becomes obsolete or is no longer needed for official or governmental purposes, it may be disposed of in accordance with Section 19-7-5 or in the manner provided by law for disposing of municipal property.

(17) The forfeiture procedure set forth in this section is the sole remedy of any claimant, and no court shall have jurisdiction to interfere therewith by replevin, injunction, supersedeas or in any other manner. SOURCES: Laws, 2013, ch. 543, § 7, eff from and after July 1, 2013.

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Local Government
Mississippi
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Phil Bryant
Phil Bryant
January 10, 2012 -
Republican
1-601-351-5023
200 South Lamar, Suite 800, Jackson, MS, 39201

Keywords
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vehicle
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enforcement
security
petition