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General Laws

Section 47. (a) The following property shall be subject to forfeiture to the commonwealth and all property rights therein shall be in the commonwealth:

(1) All controlled substances which have been manufactured, delivered, distributed, dispensed or acquired in violation of this chapter.

(2) All materials, products, and equipment of any kind which are used, or intended for use, in manufacturing, compounding, processing, delivering, dispensing, distributing, importing, or exporting any controlled substance in violation of this chapter.

(3) All conveyances, including aircraft, vehicles or vessels used, or intended for use, to transport, conceal, or otherwise facilitate the manufacture, dispensing, distribution of or possession with intent to manufacture, dispense or distribute, a controlled substance in violation of any provision of section thirty-two, thirty-two A, thirty-two B, thirty-two C, thirty-two D, thirty-two E, thirty-two F, thirty-two G, thirty-two I, thirty-two J, or forty.

(4) All books, records, and research, including formulas, microfilm, tapes and data which are used, or intended for use, in violation of this chapter.

(5) All moneys, negotiable instruments, securities or other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance in violation of this chapter, all proceeds traceable to such an exchange, including real estate and any other thing of value, and all moneys, negotiable instruments, and securities used or intended to be used to facilitate any violation of any provision of section thirty-two, thirty-two A, thirty-two B, thirty-two C, thirty-two D, thirty-two E, thirty-two F, thirty-two G, thirty-two I, thirty-two J, or forty.

(6) All drug paraphernalia.

(7) All real property, including any right, title, and interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements thereto, which is used in any manner or part, to commit or to facilitate the commission of a violation of any provision of section thirty-two, thirty-two A, thirty-two B, thirty-two C, thirty-two D, thirty-two E, thirty-two F, thirty-two G, thirty-two I, thirty-two J or forty.

(8) All property which is used, or intended for use, as a container for property described in subparagraph (1) or (2).

(9) No forfeiture under this section shall extinguish a perfected security interest held by a creditor in a conveyance or in any real property at the time of the filing of the forfeiture action.

(b) Property subject to forfeiture under subparagraphs (1), (2), (4), (5), (6), (7) and (8) of subsection (a) shall, upon motion of the attorney general or district attorney, be declared forfeit by any court having jurisdiction over said property or having final jurisdiction over any related criminal proceeding brought under any provision of this chapter. Property subject to forfeiture under subparagraph (1) of subsection (a) shall be destroyed, regardless of the final disposition of such related criminal proceeding, if any, unless the court for good cause shown orders otherwise.

(c) The court shall order forfeiture of all conveyances subject to the provisions of subparagraph (3) and of all real property subject to the provisions of subparagraph (7) of subsection (a) of this section, except as follows:

(1) No conveyance used by any person as a common carrier in the transaction of business as a common carrier shall be forfeited unless it shall appear that the owner or other person in charge of such conveyance was a consenting party of privy to a violation of this chapter.

(2) No conveyance shall be forfeited by reason of any act or omission established by the owner thereof to have been committed or omitted by any person other than such owner while such conveyance was unlawfully in the possession of a person other than the owner in violation of the criminal laws of the United States, or of the commonwealth, or of any state.

(3) No conveyance or real property shall be subject to forfeiture unless the owner thereof knew or should have known that such conveyance or real property was used in and for the business of unlawfully manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing controlled substances. Proof that the conveyance or real property was used to facilitate the unlawful dispensing, manufacturing, or distribution of, or possession with intent unlawfully to manufacture, dispense or distribute, controlled substances on three or more different dates shall be prima facie evidence that the conveyance or real property was used in and for the business of unlawfully manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing controlled substances.

(4) No conveyance or real property used to facilitate the unlawful manufacturing, dispensing, or distribution of, or the possession with intent unlawfully to manufacture, dispense, or distribute marihuana or a substance, not itself a controlled substance, containing any marihuana shall be forfeited if the net weight of the substance so manufactured, dispensed, or distributed or possessed with intent to manufacture, dispense or distribute, is less than ten pounds in the aggregate.

(d) A district attorney or the attorney general may petition the superior court in the name of the commonwealth in the nature of a proceeding in rem to order forfeiture of a conveyance, real property, moneys or other things of value subject to forfeiture under the provisions of subparagraphs (3), (5), and (7) of subsection (a). Such petition shall be filed in the court having jurisdiction over said conveyance, real property, monies or other things of value or having final jurisdiction over any related criminal proceeding brought under any provision of this chapter. In all such suits where the property is claimed by any person, other than the commonwealth, the commonwealth shall have the burden of proving to the court the existence of probable cause to institute the action, and any such claimant shall then have the burden of proving that the property is not forfeitable pursuant to subparagraph (3), (5), or (7) of said subsection (a). The owner of said conveyance or real property, or other person claiming thereunder shall have the burden of proof as to all exceptions set forth in subsections (c) and (i). The court shall order the commonwealth to give notice by certified or registered mail to the owner of said conveyance, real property, moneys or other things of value and to such other persons as appear to have an interest therein, and the court shall promptly, but not less than two weeks after notice, hold a hearing on the petition. Upon the motion of the owner of said conveyance, real property, moneys or other things of value, the court may continue the hearing on the petition pending the outcome of any criminal trial related to the violation of this chapter. At such hearing the court shall hear evidence and make conclusions of law, and shall thereupon issue a final order, from which the parties shall have a right of appeal. In all such suits where a final order results in a forfeiture, said final order shall provide for disposition of said conveyance, real property, moneys or any other thing of value by the commonwealth or any subdivision thereof in any manner not prohibited by law, including official use by an authorized law enforcement or other public agency, or sale at public auction or by competitive bidding. The proceeds of any such sale shall be used to pay the reasonable expenses of the forfeiture proceedings, seizure, storage, maintenance of custody, advertising, and notice, and the balance thereof shall be distributed as further provided in this section.

The final order of the court shall provide that said moneys and the proceeds of any such sale shall be distributed equally between the prosecuting district attorney or attorney general and the city, town or state police department involved in the seizure. If more than one department was substantially involved in the seizure, the court having jurisdiction over the forfeiture proceeding shall distribute the fifty percent equitably among these departments.

There shall be established within the office of the state treasurer separate special law enforcement trust funds for each district attorney and for the attorney general. All such monies and proceeds received by any prosecuting district attorney or attorney general shall be deposited in such a trust fund and shall then be expended without further appropriation to defray the costs of protracted investigations, to provide additional technical equipment or expertise, to provide matching funds to obtain federal grants, or such other law enforcement purposes as the district attorney or attorney general deems appropriate. The district attorney or attorney general may expend up to ten percent of the monies and proceeds for drug rehabilitation, drug education and other anti-drug or neighborhood crime watch programs which further law enforcement purposes. Any program seeking to be an eligible recipient of said funds shall file an annual audit report with the local district attorney and attorney general. Such report shall include, but not be limited to, a listing of the assets, liabilities, itemized expenditures, and board of directors of such program. Within ninety days of the close of the fiscal year, each district attorney and the attorney general shall file an annual report with the house and senate committees on ways and means on the use of the monies in the trust fund for the purposes of drug rehabilitation, drug education, and other anti-drug or neighborhood crime watch programs.

All such moneys and proceeds received by any police department shall be deposited in a special law enforcement trust fund and shall be expended without further appropriation to defray the costs of protracted investigations, to provide additional technical equipment or expertise, to provide matching funds to obtain federal grants, or to accomplish such other law enforcement purposes as the chief of police of such city or town, or the colonel of state police deems appropriate, but such funds shall not be considered a source of revenue to meet the operating needs of such department.

(e) Any officer, department, or agency having custody of any property subject to forfeiture under this chapter or having disposed of said property shall keep and maintain full and complete records showing from whom it received said property, under what authority it held or received or disposed of said property, to whom it delivered said property, the date and manner of destruction or disposition of said property, and the exact kinds, quantities and forms of said property. Said records shall be open to inspection by all federal and state officers charged with enforcement of federal and state drug control laws. Persons making final disposition or destruction of said property under court order shall report, under oath, to the court the exact circumstances of said disposition or destruction.

(f) (1) During the pendency of the proceedings the court may issue at the request of the commonwealth ex parte any preliminary order or process as is necessary to seize or secure the property for which forfeiture is sought and to provide for its custody, including but not limited to an order that the commonwealth remove the property if possible, and safeguard it in a secure location in a reasonable fashion; that monies be deposited in an interest-bearing escrow account; and, that a substitute custodian be appointed to manage such property or a business enterprise. Property taken or detained under this section shall not be repleviable, but once seized shall be deemed to be lawfully in the custody of the commonwealth pending forfeiture, subject only to the orders and decrees of the court having jurisdiction thereof. Process for seizure of said property shall issue only upon a showing of probable cause, and the application therefor and the issuance, execution, and return thereof shall be subject to the provisions of chapter two hundred and seventy-six, so far as applicable.

(2) There shall be created within the division of capital asset management and maintenance an office of seized property management to which a district attorney or the attorney general may refer any real property, and any furnishings, equipment and related personal property located therein, for which seizure is sought. The office of seized property management shall be authorized to preserve and manage such property in a reasonable fashion and to dispose of such property upon a judgment ordering forfeiture issued pursuant to the provisions of subsection (d), and to enter into contracts to preserve, manage and dispose of such property. The office of seized property management may receive initial funding from the special law enforcement trust funds of the attorney general and each district attorney established pursuant to subsection (d) and shall subsequently be funded by a portion of the proceeds of each sale of such managed property to the extent provided as payment of reasonable expenses in subsection (d).

(g) Species of plants from which controlled substances in Schedules I and II may be derived which have been planted or cultivated in violation of this chapter, or of which the owners or cultivators are unknown, or which are wild growths may be seized by any police officer and summarily forfeited to the commonwealth.

(h) The failure, upon demand by a police officer of the person in occupancy or in control of land or premises upon which the species of plants are growing to produce an appropriate registration, or proof that he is a holder thereof, constitutes authority for the seizure and forfeiture of the plants.

(i) The owner of any real property which is the principal domicile of the immediate family of the owner and which is subject to forfeiture under this section may file a petition for homestead exemption with the court having jurisdiction over such forfeiture. The court may, in its discretion, allow the petition exempting from forfeiture an amount allowed under section one of chapter one hundred and eighty-eight. The value of the balance of said principal domicile, if any, shall be forfeited as provided in this section. Such homestead exemption may be acquired on only one principal domicile for the benefit of the immediate family of the owner.

(j) A forfeiture proceeding affecting the title to real property or the use and occupation thereof or the buildings thereon shall not have any effect except against the parties thereto and persons having actual notice thereof, until a memorandum containing the names of the parties to such proceeding, the name of the town where the affected real property lies, and a description of such real property sufficiently accurate for identification is recorded in the registry of deeds for the county or district where the real property lies. At any time after a judgment on the merits, or after the discontinuance, dismissal or other final disposition is recorded by the court having jurisdiction over such matter, the clerk of such court shall issue a certificate of the fact of such judgment, discontinuance, dismissal or other final disposition, and such certificate shall be recorded in the registry in which the original memorandum recorded pursuant to this section was filed.

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