2004 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Harvey
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 69-29-1, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE THE AGRICULTURAL AND LIVESTOCK THEFT BUREAU TO ENFORCE LAWS PERTAINING TO PREVENTING TIMBER THEFT AND TO AUTHORIZE ACCESS TO CERTAIN RECORDS; TO AMEND SECTION 97-17-59, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE RESTITUTION IN TIMBER THEFT CASES; TO PROVIDE A PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO PAY OWNER FOR TIMBER PRODUCTS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 69-29-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
69-29-1. (1) (a) There is established the Mississippi Agricultural and Livestock Theft Bureau.
(b) The Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce shall appoint a director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Livestock Theft Bureau. Such director shall have at least five (5) years of law enforcement experience. Such director shall be responsible solely to the supervision of the Commissioner of Agriculture and to no other person or entity. Such director may be discharged only for just cause shown.
(c) The director may employ nine (9) agricultural and livestock theft investigators, one (1) from each highway patrol district, and each investigator is required to reside within the highway patrol district from which he or she is selected. Each investigator shall be certified as a law enforcement officer, successfully completing at least a nine-week training course, in accordance with Section 45-6-11. The curriculum for the training of constables shall not be sufficient for meeting the certification requirements of this paragraph. In the selection of investigators under this section, preference shall be given to persons who have previous law enforcement experience.
(d) The director appointed under this section, under the direction, control and supervision of the commissioner, and the investigators employed under this section shall perform only the duties described in subsection (2) of this section and shall not be assigned any other duties.
(2) The director appointed under this section and the investigators employed under this section shall have the following powers, duties and authority:
(a) To enforce all of the provisions of Sections 69-29-9 and 69-29-11, and particularly those portions requiring persons transporting livestock to have a bill of sale in their possession; to make investigations of violations of such sections and to arrest persons violating same;
(b) To enforce all of the laws of this state enacted for the purpose of preventing the theft of livestock, poultry, and timber and agricultural, aquacultural, and timber products and implements; to make investigations of violations thereof and to arrest persons violating same;
(c) To cooperate with all regularly constituted law enforcement officers relative to the matters herein set forth;
(d) To serve warrants and other process emanating from any court of lawful jurisdiction, including search warrants, in all matters herein set forth;
(e) To carry proper credentials evidencing their authority, which shall be exhibited to any person making demand therefor;
(f) To make arrests without warrant in all matters herein set forth in cases where same is authorized under the constitutional and general laws of this state;
(g) To handle the registration of brands of cattle and livestock;
(h) To investigate, prevent, apprehend and arrest those persons anywhere in the state who are violating any of the laws administered by the Department of Agriculture and Commerce including, but not limited to, all agriculture-related crimes.
(i) To access and examine records of any person, business or entity that harvests, loads, carries, receives or manufactures timber products as defined in this section. Each person or entity shall permit the director or any investigator of the Mississippi Agricultural and Livestock Theft Bureau to examine records of the sale, transfer or purchase of timber or timber products, including, but not limited to, contracts, load tickets, settlement sheet, drivers logs, invoices, checks and any other records or documents related to an ongoing investigation of the Mississippi Agricultural and Livestock Theft Bureau.
(3) The Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce shall furnish such investigators with such vehicles, equipment and supplies as may be necessary. All expenses of same, and all other expenses incurred in the administration of this section, shall be paid from such appropriation as may be made by the Legislature.
(4) The State Tax Commission and its agents and employees shall cooperate with such investigators by furnishing to them information as to any possible or suspected violations of any of the laws mentioned herein, including specifically Section 69-29-27, and in any other lawful manner.
(5) The conservation officers of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are authorized to cooperate with and assist the agricultural and livestock theft investigators in the enforcement and apprehension of violators of laws regarding agricultural and livestock theft.
(6) The Mississippi Forestry Commission employees are excluded from any timber and timber products theft investigative responsibilities except when technical expertise is needed and requested through the State Forester, or his designee.
(7) For purposes of this section, "Timber product" is defined as follows:
"Timber of all kinds, species or sizes, including, but not limited to: logs, lumber, poles, pilings, posts, blocks, bolts, cordwood, pulpwood, pine stump wood, pine knots or other distillate wood, crossties, turpentine (crude gum), pine straw, firewood and all other products derived from timber or trees, which have a sale or commercial value.
SECTION 2. Section 97-17-59, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
97-17-59. (1) Any person who shall knowingly, willfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away from the lands of another any merchantable timber on the property of another, of the value of less than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00), whether such timber is growing, standing or lying on the lands, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term of not less than thirty (30) days nor more than one hundred (100) days, or both, in the discretion of the court.
(2) Any person who shall knowingly, willfully and feloniously take, steal and carry away from the lands of another any merchantable timber on the property of another, of the value of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) or more, whether such timber is growing, standing, or lying on the lands, shall be guilty of a felony; and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) nor more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years, or both, in the discretion of the court.
(3) In addition to any fine or imprisonment, the court shall order that restitution be made to the owner of any stolen timber. The measure for restitution shall be the amount of the actual financial loss to the owner of the timber, including any loss of income, any court costs, expert fees and attorney's fees incurred by the owner to recover the loss, and any other costs incurred by the owner as a result of actions in violation of subsections (1) and (2) of this section. The value of the timber shall be calculated by the fair market value of the timber at the time of the loss.
SECTION 3. (1) Any person who acquires, with the consent of the owner, any timber product from the owner and who receives payment for the timber product shall, within thirty (30) days of such receipt, make payment in full to the owner.
(2) If the owner has not received payment within the required thirty (30) days, the owner shall notify the offender of his demand for payment at the offender's last known address by certified mail or by personal delivery of the written notice of the offender. The offender shall make payment in-full within ten (10) days after the mailing or delivery of the written notice or the offender shall be in violation of this section.
(3) A written agreement signed by the owner providing for a means of payment contrary to this section shall constitute an affirmative defense.
(4) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them herein unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(a) "Timber product" means timber of all kinds, species or sizes, including, but not limited to: logs, lumber, poles, pilings, posts, blocks, bolts, cordwood and pulpwood, pine stump
wood, pine knots or other distillate wood, crossties, turpentine (crude gum), pine straw, firewood and all other products derived from timber or trees, which have a sale or commercial value.
(b) "Owner" means any person, partnership, corporation, unincorporated association or other legal entity having any interest in any timber product, any land upon which a timber product is growing, or any land from which a timber product has been removed.
(5) Whoever violates this section when the value of the timber product is Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or less shall be fined not more than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or imprisoned for not more than one (1) year, or both. When the value of the timber product is more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), the violator shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or imprisoned for not more than ten (10) years, or both.
SECTION 4. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2004.