1997 Regular Session
By: Representative Hamilton
House Bill 663
AN ACT TO CREATE A NEW CODE SECTION TO BE CODIFIED AS SECTION 63-15-4, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT IT SHALL BE UNLAWFUL FOR ANY PERSON TO OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE IN THIS STATE UNLESS A POLICY OF MOTOR VEHICLE LIABILITY INSURANCE IN AT LEAST THE MINIMUM AMOUNTS REQUIRED FOR PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS IN EFFECT TO INSURE AGAINST LOSSES WHICH MAY ARISE OUT OF THE OPERATION OF SUCH VEHICLE; TO PROVIDE THAT IF THE OPERATOR OF A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT IS UNABLE TO PRESENT A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE OR PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, THEN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER SHALL CHARGE THE OPERATOR WITH A VIOLATION OF THIS ACT AND SHALL SEIZE THE MOTOR VEHICLE; TO CREATE A NEW CODE SECTION TO BE CODIFIED AS SECTION 63-15-77, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE FORFEITURE OF MOTOR VEHICLES SEIZED UNDER THIS ACT IF WITHIN FORTY-EIGHT HOURS OF SEIZURE THE OWNER OR OPERATOR OF THE VEHICLE DOES NOT FILE WITH THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY THAT SEIZED THE VEHICLE EVIDENCE OF LIABILITY INSURANCE OR OTHER PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THAT WAS IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT AND PAY ALL TOWING AND STORAGE CHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE SEIZURE; TO CREATE A NEW CODE SECTION TO BE CODIFIED AS SECTION 63-15-79, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PRESCRIBE THE PROCEDURE FOR FORFEITING VEHICLES SEIZED UNDER THIS ACT; TO PROVIDE THAT THE PROCEEDS OF FORFEITURE SALES, AFTER PAYMENT AND SATISFACTION OF THE INTERESTS OF LIENHOLDERS, SHALL BE DEPOSITED IN THE CRIME VICTIMS' COMPENSATION FUND AND USED FOR THE PURPOSE OF REIMBURSING AND COMPENSATING PERSONS WHO ARE INJURED OR WHO INCURRED DAMAGES RESULTING FROM OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE BY A PERSON WHO DID NOT HAVE IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF A MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT A VALID CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE OR OTHER PROOF OF FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AS REQUIRED UNDER THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The following shall be codified as Section 63-15-4, Mississippi Code of 1972:
63-15-4. (1) It is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle in this state unless a policy of motor vehicle liability insurance in at least the minimum amounts required for proof of financial responsibility under Section 63-15-3 is in effect to insure against losses which may arise out of the operation of such vehicle.
(2) The following vehicles are exempt from the requirement of subsection (1) of this section:
(a) Vehicles exempt by Section 63-15-5;
(b) Vehicles for which a bond or a certificate of deposit of money or securities in at least the minimum amounts required for proof of financial responsibility under Section 63-15-3 is on file with the Department of Public Safety;
(c) Vehicles that are self-insured under Section 63-15-53;
(d) Vehicles that are both registered to and operated by nonresidents, except for those vehicles that are primarily operated in this state; and
(e) Implements of husbandry.
(3) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (1) of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be punished, upon conviction for a first offense, by a fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) nor more than Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00). Conviction for a second or subsequent violation of subsection (1) of this section, the violations occurring within a period of three (3) years, is punishable by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) nor more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00).
(4) Every law enforcement officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident in this state that has resulted in bodily injury, death or property damage, shall demand that the operator of each vehicle involved in the accident present a current and valid certificate of insurance or other proof of financial responsibility that is then on file with the Department of Public Safety at the time of the accident evidencing that the operator is insured against losses that may arise out of the operation of such vehicle. If the operator is unable to present such certificate or proof of financial responsibility, then the law enforcement officer shall charge the operator with a violation of subsection (3) of this section and shall seize the motor vehicle. Upon the seizure of the motor vehicle, proceedings shall be instituted in accordance with the provisions of Section 63-15-77.
(5) The requirements of this section and the penalties provided in this section are in addition to and not in lieu of the requirements and penalties as otherwise provided by this chapter.
SECTION 2. The following shall be codified as Section 63-15-77, Mississippi Code of 1972:
63-15-77. (1) The owner or operator of any motor vehicle that has been seized under Section 63-15-4(4) may recover possession of the vehicle if, within forty-eight (48) hours of seizure, he files with the law enforcement agency that seized the vehicle evidence of liability insurance or other proof of financial responsibility that was in effect at the time of the accident that meets the minimum requirements of subsection (1) of Section 63-15-4, and if he pays all towing and storage charges associated with the seizure.
(2) If the owner or operator of a motor vehicle seized under Section 63-15-4(4) does not recover possession of the vehicle under subsection (1) of this section, then proceedings under this section shall be instituted promptly.
(3) A petition for forfeiture shall be filed promptly 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. 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 vehicle is within the jurisdictional limits of the county court as set forth in Section 9-9-21. A copy of such petition shall be served upon the following persons by service of process in the same manner as in civil cases:
(a) The owner of the vehicle, if address is known;
(b) Any secured party if the identity of such secured party can be ascertained by the law enforcement agency by making a good faith effort to ascertain the identity of such secured party as described in subsections (4) and (5) of this section;
(c) Any other bona fide lienholder holding an interest in the vehicle of whom the local law enforcement agency has actual knowledge; and
(d) Any person in possession of the vehicle at the time that it was seized.
(4) The law enforcement agency 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.
(5) If the vehicle is not titled in the State of Mississippi, then the law enforcement agency 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 law enforcement agency 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.
(6) In the event the answer to an inquiry states that the record owner of the vehicle 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 on the vehicle, the local law enforcement agency shall cause any record owner and also any lienholder to be named in the petition of forfeiture and to be served with process in the same manner as in civil cases.
(7) If the owner of the vehicle cannot be found and served with a copy of the petition of forfeiture, or if no person was in possession of the vehicle subject to forfeiture at the time that it was seized and the owner of the vehicle is unknown, the law enforcement agency 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 vehicle 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.
(8) 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.
SECTION 3. The following shall be codified as Section 63-15-79, Mississippi Code of 1972:
63-15-79. (1) An owner of a motor vehicle that has been seized pursuant to Section 63-15-4(4) 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 vehicle is subject to forfeiture. 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. However, upon request by the local law enforcement agency or the owner of the vehicle, the court may postpone the forfeiture hearing to a date past the time any criminal action is pending against the owner under Section 63-15-4(3).
(2) If the owner of the vehicle has filed an answer denying that the vehicle is subject to forfeiture, then the burden is on the petitioner to prove that the vehicle is subject to forfeiture. However, if an answer has not been filed by the owner of the vehicle, the petition for forfeiture may be introduced into evidence and is prima facie evidence that the vehicle is subject to forfeiture. The standard of proof placed upon the petitioner in regard to a vehicle forfeited under the provisions of this article shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.
(3) At the hearing any claimant of any right, title or interest in the vehicle may prove his lien, or security interest to be bona fide and created without knowledge or consent that the vehicle was to be used so as to cause the vehicle to be subject to forfeiture.
(4) If it is found that the vehicle is subject to forfeiture, then the judge shall forfeit the vehicle. However, if proof at the hearing discloses that the interest of any bona fide lienholder or secured party is greater than or equal to the present value of the vehicle, the court shall order the vehicle released to him. If such interest is less than the present value of the vehicle and if the proof shows that the vehicle is subject to forfeiture, the court shall order the vehicle forfeited to the law enforcement agency.
(5) An motor vehicle that is forfeited to the law enforcement agency shall be sold at a public auction for cash by the chief law enforcement officer of the law enforcement agency, or his designee, 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 before such sale, in a newspaper having a general circulation in the jurisdiction in which the law enforcement agency is located. Such notices shall contain a description of the vehicle 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 vehicle 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 disposed of as follows:
(a) To any bona fide lienholder or secured party to the extent of his interest; and
(b) The balance, if any, remaining after deduction of all storage, court costs and expenses of liquidation shall be deposited in the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund created in Section 99-41-29, and shall be used for the purpose of reimbursing and compensating persons who were injured or who incurred damages resulting from operation of the motor vehicle by a person who did not have in effect at the time of the motor vehicle accident a valid certificate of insurance or other proof of financial responsibility as required under Section 63-15-4(3).
SECTION 4. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.