2010 Mississippi Code
TITLE 97 - CRIMES
Chapter 43 - Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
97-43-11 - Seizure and forfeiture of property; procedures.

§ 97-43-11. Seizure and forfeiture of property; procedures.
 

(1)  When any property is seized pursuant to Section 97-43-9, proceedings under this section shall be instituted promptly. 

(2) (a)  A petition for forfeiture shall be filed promptly in the name of the State of Mississippi with the clerk of the circuit court of the county in which the seizure is made. A copy of such 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 such secured party can be ascertained by the state by making a good faith effort to ascertain the identity of such secured party as described in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) of this subsection; 

(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 state has actual knowledge; 

(iv) A holder of a mortgage, deed of trust, lien or encumbrance of record, if the property is real estate by making a good faith inquiry as described in paragraph (g) of this section; and 

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

(b) 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, the state shall make inquiry of the State Tax Commission as to what the records of the State Tax Commission show as to who is the record owner of the vehicle and who, if anyone, holds any lien or security interest which affects the vehicle. 

(c) If the property is a motor vehicle and is not titled in the State of Mississippi, then the state shall attempt 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, the state shall make inquiry of the appropriate agency of that state 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 which affects the vehicle. 

(d) 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, the state shall make inquiry of the appropriate office designated in Section 75-9-501 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. 

(e) 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, then the state shall make inquiry of the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration as to what the records of the administrator 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. 

(f) In the case of all other personal property subject to forfeiture, if there is any reasonable cause to believe that an instrument in the nature of a security device affects the property, then the state shall make a good faith inquiry to identify the holder of any such instrument. 

(g) If the property is real estate, the state shall make inquiry at the appropriate places to determine who is the owner of record and who, if anyone is a holder of a bona fide mortgage, deed of trust, lien or encumbrance. 

(h) In the event 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 which affects the property, the state shall cause any 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 which affects the property to be named in the petition of forfeiture and to be served with process in the same manner as in civil cases. 

(i) 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, the state shall file 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. 

(j) No proceedings instituted pursuant to the provisions of this article 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 paragraphs (b) through (g) of this section shall be introduced into evidence at the hearing. 

(3) (a)  An owner of property that has been seized shall file a verified answer within twenty (20) days after the completion of service of process. If no answer is filed, the court shall hear evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture and forfeit the property to the state. 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 progress within thirty (30) days after filing the answer. Provided, however, that upon request by the state or the owner of the property, the court may postpone said forfeiture hearing to a date past the time any criminal action is pending against said owner. 

(b) If the owner of the property has filed a verified answer denying that the property is subject to forfeiture, then the burden is on the state to prove that the property is subject to forfeiture. The burden of proof placed upon the state shall be clear and convincing proof. However, if no answer has 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. 

(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 to the state. 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 such 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 to the state. 

(4) (a)  All personal property, including money, which is forfeited to the state and is not capable of being sold at public auction shall be liquidated and the proceeds, after deduction of all storage and court costs, shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and deposited in the General Fund of the state. 

(b) All real estate which is forfeited to the state shall be sold to the highest bidder at a public auction to be conducted by the state 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 of law. The proceeds of such sale shall first be applied to the cost and expense in administering and conducting such sale, then to the satisfaction of all mortgages, deeds of trusts, liens and encumbrances of record on such property. All proceeds in excess of the amount necessary for the cost of the sale of such land and the satisfaction of any liens thereon shall be deposited in the General Fund of the State Treasury. 

(c) All other property that has been seized by the state and that has been forfeited shall, except as otherwise provided, be sold at a public auction for cash by the state to the highest and best bidder after advertising the sale for at least once each week for three (3) consecutive weeks, the last notice to appear not more than ten (10) days nor less than five (5) days prior to such sale, in a newspaper having a general circulation throughout the State of Mississippi. Such notices shall contain a description of the property to be sold and a statement of the time and place of sale. It shall not be necessary to the validity of such sale either to have the property present at the place of sale or to have the name of the owner thereof stated in such notice. The proceeds of the sale shall be delivered to the circuit clerk and shall be disposed of as follows: 

(i) To any bona fide lienholder, secured party, or other party holding an interest in the property in the nature of a security interest, to the extent of his interest; and 

(ii) The balance, if any, after deduction of all storage and court costs, shall be forwarded to the State Treasurer and deposited with and used as general funds of the state. 

(d) The State Tax Commission shall issue a certificate of title to any person who purchases property under the provisions of this section when a certificate of title is required under the laws of this state. 
 

Sources: Laws,  1984, ch. 433, § 6; reenacted, 1986, ch. 461, § 6; Laws, 2001, ch. 495, § 28, eff from and after Jan. 1, 2002.
 

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