1998 Regular Session
To: Juvenile Justice
By: Senator(s) Farris
Senate Bill 2848
AN ACT TO CODIFY SECTION 97-44-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CREATE ACTIONS FOR INJUNCTION, ABATEMENT, DAMAGES OR OTHER REMEDIES FOR UNLAWFUL USE OF A PRIVATE BUILDING BY MEMBERS OF A CRIMINAL STREET GANG; TO CODIFY SECTION 97-44-17, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE FOR FORFEITURE OF FIREARMS, AMMUNITION AND DANGEROUS WEAPONS USED BY CRIMINAL STREET GANGS; TO CODIFY SECTION 97-44-19, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ENACT CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR CRIMINAL STREET GANG ACTIVITY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The following provision shall be codified as Section 97-44-15, Mississippi Code of 1972:
97-44-15. (1) Every private building or place used by members of a criminal street gang for the commission of illegal activity is a nuisance and may be the subject of an injunction or cause of action for damages or for abatement of the nuisance as provided for in this chapter.
(2) Any person may file a petition for injunctive relief with the appropriate court seeking eviction from or closure of any premises used for commission of illegal activity by a criminal street gang. Upon proof by the plaintiff that the premises are being used by members of a criminal street gang for the commission of illegal activity, the court may order the owner of record or the lessee of the premises to remove or evict the persons from the premises and order the premises sealed, prohibit further use of the premises, or enter such order as may be necessary to prohibit the premises from being used for the commission of illegal activity by a gang and to abate the nuisance.
(3) Any action for injunction, damages, abatement, or other relief filed pursuant to this section shall proceed according to the provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure.
(4) The court shall not issue an injunction or assess a civil penalty against any owner of record or the lessee of the private building or place, unless that person knew or should have known or had been notified of the use of the premises by a gang for illegal activity. Any injunctive relief other than that specifically authorized in subsection (6) of this section shall be limited to that which is necessary to protect the health and safety of the residents or the public or that which is necessary to prevent further illegal activity.
(5) A petition for injunction shall not be filed until thirty (30) days after notice of the unlawful use or criminal conduct has been provided to the owner of record or the lessee, by mail, return receipt requested, postage prepaid, to the owner's last known address, or by personal service. If the premises are abandoned or closed, or if the whereabouts of the owner of record or lessee is unknown, all notices, process, pleadings, and orders required to be delivered or served under this section may be attached to a door of the premises, and this shall have the same effect as personal service on the owner of record or lessee. No injunctive relief authorized by subsection (6) of this section shall be issued in the form of a temporary restraining order.
(6) If the court has previously issued injunctive relief ordering the owner of record or the lessee of the premises to close the premises or otherwise to keep the premises from being used for the commission by a gang of illegal activity, the court, upon proof of failure to comply with the terms of the injunction and that the premises continue to be used by a gang for the commission of illegal activity, may do one or more of the following:
(a) Order the premises demolished and cleared at the cost of the owner.
(b) Order the premises sold at public auction and the proceeds from the sale, minus the costs of the sale and the expenses of bringing the action, delivered to the owner.
(c) Order the defendant to pay damages to persons or local governing authorities who have been damaged or injured or have incurred expense as a result of the defendant's failure to take reasonable steps or precautions to comply with the terms of any injunction issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
(d) Assess a civil penalty not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00) against the defendant based upon the severity of the nuisance and its duration. In establishing the amount of any civil penalty, the court shall consider all of the following factors:
(i) The actions taken by the defendant to mitigate or correct the problem at the private building or place or the reasons why no such action was taken.
(ii) Any failure of the plaintiff to provide notice as required by subsection (5) of this section.
(iii) Any other factor deemed by the court to be relevant.
(7) No nonprofit, fraternal or charitable organization which is conducting its affairs with ordinary care or skill nor any governmental entity shall be enjoined pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
(8) Nothing in this chapter shall preclude any aggrieved person from seeking any other remedy provided by law.
SECTION 2. The following provision shall be codified as Section 97-44-17, Mississippi Code of 1972:
97-44-17. (1) Any firearm, ammunition to be used in a firearm, or dangerous weapon in the possession of a member of a criminal street gang may be seized by any law enforcement agency or peace officer when the law enforcement agency or peace officer has probable cause to believe that the firearm, ammunition to be used in a firearm, or dangerous weapon is or has been used by a gang in the commission of illegal activity.
(2) The district attorney or an attorney for the seizing agency shall initiate, in a civil action, forfeiture proceedings by petition in the circuit courts as to any property seized pursuant to the provisions of this section within thirty (30) days of seizure. The district attorney shall provide notice of the filing of the petition to those members of the gang who become known to law enforcement officials as a result of the seizure and any related arrests, and to any person determined by law enforcement officials to be the owner of any of the property involved. After initial notice of the filing of the petition, the court shall assure that all persons so notified continue to receive notice of all subsequent proceedings related to the property.
(3) Any person who claims an interest in any seized property shall, in order to assert a claim that the property should not be forfeited, file a notice with the court, without necessity of paying costs, of the intent to establish either of the following:
(a) That the persons asserting the claim did not know and could not have known of its use by a gang in the commission of illegal activity; or
(b) That the law enforcement officer lacked the requisite reasonable belief that the property was or had been used by a gang in the commission of illegal activity.
(4) An acquittal or dismissal in a criminal proceeding shall not preclude civil proceedings under this section; however, for good cause shown, on motion by the district attorney, the court may stay civil forfeiture proceedings during the criminal trial for related criminal indictment or information alleging a violation of this section. Such a stay shall not be available pending an appeal.
(5) Except as otherwise provided by this section, all proceedings hereunder shall be governed by the provisions of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.
(6) The issue shall be determined by the court alone, and the hearing on the claim shall be held within sixty (60) days after service of the petition unless continued for good cause. The district attorney shall have the initial burden of showing the existence of probable cause for forfeiture of the property. If the state shows probable cause, the claimant has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the claimant's interest in the property is not subject to forfeiture.
(7) Any person who asserts a successful claim in accordance with subsection (3) of this section shall be awarded the seized property by the court, together with costs of filing such action. All property as to which no claim is filed, or as to which no successful claim is made, may be destroyed, sold at a public sale, retained for use by the seizing agency or transferred without charge to any law enforcement agency of the state for use by it. Property that is sold shall be sold by the circuit court at a public auction for cash 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 in the county. Such notice 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, less any expenses of concluding the sale, shall be deposited in the seizing agency's general fund to be used only for approved law enforcement activity affecting the agency's efforts to combat gang activities.
(8) Any action under the provisions of this section may be consolidated with any other action or proceedings pursuant to this section relating to the same property on motion of the district attorney.
SECTION 3. The following provision shall be codified as Section 97-43-19, Mississippi Code of 1972:
97-43-19. (1) Any person who intentionally directs, participates, conducts, furthers, or assists in the commission of illegal gang activity shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one (1) year nor more than one-half (1/2) of the maximum term of imprisonment provided for an underlying offense and may be fined an amount not to exceed Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00). Any sentence of imprisonment imposed pursuant to this section shall be in addition and consecutive to any sentence imposed for the underlying offense.
(2) Any person who is convicted of a felony or an attempted felony which is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang, with the intent to promote, further, or assist in the affairs of a criminal gang, shall, upon conviction of that felony, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of which he or she has been convicted, be imprisoned for not less than one (1) year nor more than one-half (1/2) of the maximum term of imprisonment provided for that offense.
(3) Any person who is convicted of an offense other than a felony which is committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with, any criminal street gang, with the specific intent to promote, further or assist in any criminal conduct or enterprise by gang members, shall, in addition and consecutive to the penalty provided for that offense, be imprisoned for an additional period of not more than one (1) year.
(4) The court may elect to suspend all or a part of any additional mandatory punishment or enhanced punishment provided for in this chapter to impose alternative punishment in the form of properly supervised community service or placement in an appropriate adolescent offender program, if available, only in an unusual case where the interest of justice would best be served, and if the court specifies on the record and enters into the minutes the circumstances and reasons that the interests of justice would best be served by that suspension of enhanced punishment.
SECTION 4. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1998.