Senate Bill No. 643
(By Senator Palumbo)
[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;
reported February 27, 2012.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §60A-7-705a, relating to the West Virginia Contraband Forfeiture Act; revising procedures for administrative forfeiture of certain types of property involved in the trafficking of controlled substances; establishing time frames; and providing for notice.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §60A-7-705a, to read as follows:
ARTICLE 7. WEST VIRGINIA CONTRABAND FORFEITURE ACT.
§60A-7-705a. Expedited procedures for administrative forfeiture of certain types of property.
(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section seven hundred five of this article, the following items are subject to forfeiture upon seizure pursuant to this section without recourse to the procedures set forth in section seven hundred five of this article:
(1) Forfeitable money, securities and other negotiable instruments;
(2) Forfeitable conveyances which shall include automobiles of any configuration, airplanes, motorcycles and bicycles; and
(3) Forfeitable firearms.
(b) An administrative forfeiture notice may be generated by the prosecuting attorney no more than twenty days after the seizure of the property in question. The notice shall be styled “NOTICE OF SEIZURE AND INTENT TO FORFEIT PROPERTY” and contain the following: (1) A description of the property seized;
(2) The name and address of the agency responsible for the seizure;
(3) A statement of the time and place of seizure;
(4) The name or names of the owner or owners of the property, if the property subject to forfeiture conveys by title or has a serial number or other identifiable number that gives notice of ownership;
(5) The name or names of the person or persons in possession of the property at the time seized; and
(6) The legal basis and facts underlying the seizure and proposals forfeiture.
(c) The administrative forfeiture notice shall include a statement substantially as follows:
“To any claimant to the within described property, the property is subject to administrative forfeiture unless you provide a written notice, within thirty days of receipt of this notice, that you wish to contest this forfeiture. If you fail to provide a notice to the prosecuting attorney, you will immediately and forever lose all right, claim, title and interest to the subject property, and the property will be disposed of according to law.” The notice shall also include the address of the respective prosecuting attorney.
(d) The notice of seizure and intent to forfeit shall be served upon any possessor or possessors of the property at the time of its seizure, and, in the case of property which conveys by title, any owner and/or lienholder of record. Service may be by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the possessor or possessors, owner or owners. Service may also be effected consistent with Rule 4 of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. The notice shall contain the name of the prosecutor’s office to which a response shall be sent.
(e) If no owner or possessor can be located with diligent effort or if the notice, provided in subsection (c) of this section to the last known address of any person to whom the notice was attempted, is returned unclaimed or refused, then no further notice is required.
(f) If, after thirty days of the delivery of notice from the prosecuting attorney as provided in this section, written response is not received from any person stating a desire to contest the administrative forfeiture, all right, title and interest to the subject property shall immediately vest in the state, and shall be disposed of in the same manner as in a civil forfeiture, according to the provisions of sections seven hundred six and seven hundred seven of this article.
(g) If the prosecutor receives a written response, within the thirty-day period, stating a desire to contest the expedited administrative forfeiture, then no forfeiture may be obtained except through a civil forfeiture proceeding under section seven hundred five of this article.