(a) Every inspector or protector who arrests a person for an offense as to which he has enforcement jurisdiction is authorized to search the person arrested and the surrounding area for weapons and for fruits, instrumentalities, and evidence of any crime for which the person arrested is or might have been arrested.
(b) Every inspector or protector who issues a citation instead of arresting a person, in cases in which the inspector or protector is authorized to arrest, may seize all lawfully discovered evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of any crime as to which he has arrest jurisdiction and probable cause. When live fish are returned to public fishing bottoms or public waters, the inspector or protector shall state on the citation the quantity returned.
(c) Every inspector or protector who in the lawful pursuit of his duties has probable cause for believing he has discovered a violation of the law over which he has jurisdiction may seize in connection therewith any fish, wildlife, weapons, equipment, vessels, or other evidence, fruits, or instrumentalities of the crime, notwithstanding the absence of any person in the immediate area subject to arrest or the failure or inability of the inspector or protector to capture or otherwise take custody of the person guilty of the violation in question. Where the owner of such property satisfies the Secretary or the Executive Director, as the case may be, of his ownership and that he had no knowledge or culpability in regard to the offense involving the use of his property, such property must be returned to the owner. If after due diligence on the part of employees of the Department or the Wildlife Resources Commission, as the case may be, the identity or whereabouts of the violator or of the owner of the property seized cannot be determined, such property may be sold by the Department or the Wildlife Resources Commission in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(d) The Marine Fisheries Commission and the Wildlife Resources Commission may provide by rule for summary disposition of live or perishable fish or wildlife seized by an inspector or protector. If the property seized consists of live fish which may again be placed to the benefit of the public on public fishing bottoms or in public waters, the inspector or protector may require the person in possession of the seized live fish to transport it the distance necessary to effect placement on appropriate bottoms or waters. In the event of refusal by the person in question to transport the fish, the inspector or protector must take appropriate steps to effect the transportation. The steps may include seizure of any conveyance or vessel of the person refusing to transport the fish if the conveyance or vessel was one on which the fish were located or was used to take or transport the fish. When a conveyance or vessel is seized, it is to be safeguarded by the inspector or protector seizing it pending trial and it becomes subject to the orders of the court. Transportation costs borne by the Department or by the Wildlife Resources Commission, as the case may be, may be collected by the agency from the proceeds of the sale of any other property of the defendant seized and sold in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Except as provided in subsection (g), when the seizure consists of edible fish or wildlife which is not alive, may not live, or may not otherwise benefit conservation objectives if again placed on open lands, on public fishing bottoms, or in public fishing waters, the inspector or protector must dispose of the property in a charitable or noncommercial manner in accordance with the directions of his administrative superiors.
(e) Except as otherwise specifically provided in this section, all property seized must be safeguarded pending trial by the inspector or protector initiating the prosecution. Upon a conviction the property seized in connection with the offense in question is subject to the disposition ordered by the court. Upon an acquittal, property seized must be returned to the defendant or established owner, except:
(1) Where the property was summarily disposed of in accordance with subsection (d);
(2) Where possession of the property by the person to whom it otherwise would be returned would constitute a crime; and
(3) Where the property seized has been sold in accordance with subsection (g). In this event the net proceeds of the sale must be returned to the defendant or established owner, as the case may be.
Where property seized summarily under subsection (d) is not available for return, an acquitted defendant or established owner is entitled to no compensation where there was probable cause for the action taken. Within 20 days of the final court adjudication of a citation, the Department or the Wildlife Resources Commission shall notify any acquitted defendant or established owner of its duly established procedures whereby reimbursement may be sought for live fish seized summarily under subsection (d) that is not available for return. Any action or proceeding to recover compensation must be begun within 30 days after receipt of the notice of applicable procedures. After the expiration of this period of limitation, no right or action or claim for compensation shall be asserted.
In safeguarding property seized pending trial, an inspector or protector is authorized in his discretion, subject to orders of his administrative superiors, to make his own provisions for storage or safekeeping or to deposit the property with the sheriff of the county in which the trial is to be held for custody pending trial. In the event the mode of safekeeping reasonably selected by the inspector or protector entails a storage or handling charge, such charge is to be paid as follows:
(1) By the defendant if he is convicted but the court nevertheless orders the return of the property to the defendant;
(2) From the proceeds of the sale of the property if the property is sold under court order or in accordance with the provisions of this section; or
(3) By the Department or by the Wildlife Resources Commission, as the case may be, if no other provision for payment exists.
(f) Subject to orders of his administrative superiors, an inspector or protector in his discretion may leave property which he is authorized to seize in the possession of the defendant with the understanding that such property will be subject to the orders of the court upon disposition of the case. Willful failure or inexcusable neglect of the defendant to keep such property subject to the orders of the court is a Class 1 misdemeanor. In exercising his discretion, the inspector or protector should not permit property to be retained by the defendant if there is any substantial risk of its being used by the defendant in further unlawful activity.
(g) Where a prosecution involving seized saleable fish is pending and such fish are perishable or seasonal, the inspector or protector may apply to the court in which the trial is pending for an order permitting sale prior to trial. As used in this subsection, seasonal fish are those which command a higher price at one season than at another so that economic loss may occur if there is a delay in the time of sale. When ordered by the court, such sale prior to trial must be conducted in accordance with the order of the court or in accordance with the provisions of this section. The net proceeds of such sale are to be deposited with the court and are subject to the same disposition as would have been applicable to other types of property seized. Where sale is not lawful for public health reasons or otherwise not practicable or where prosecution is not pending, disposal of the fish is in accordance with subsection (d).
(h) Pending trial, the defendant or the established owner of any nonperishable and nonconsumable property seized may apply to the court designated to try the offense for return of the property. The property must be returned pending trial if:
(1) The court is satisfied that return of the property will not facilitate further violations of the law; and
(2) The claimant posts a bond for return of the property at trial in an amount double the value of the property as assessed by the court.
(i) Upon conviction of any defendant for a violation of the laws or rules administered by the Department or the Wildlife Resources Commission under the authority of this Subchapter, the court in its discretion may order the confiscation of all weapons, equipment, vessels, conveyances, fish, wildlife, and other evidence, fruits, and instrumentalities of the offense in question, whether or not seized or made subject to the orders of the court pending trial. If the confiscated property is lawfully saleable, it must be sold; otherwise it must be disposed of in a manner authorized in this section. Unless otherwise specified in the order of the court, sales are to be held by the Department or the Wildlife Resources Commission, as the case may be.
The Department and the Wildlife Resources Commission may administratively provide for an orderly public sale procedure of property which it may sell under this section. The procedure may include turning the property to be sold over to some other agency for sale, provided that the provisions of subsection (j) are complied with and there is proper accounting for the net proceeds of the sale. In the case of property that cannot lawfully be sold or is unlikely to sell for a sufficient amount to offset the costs of sale, the Department and the Wildlife Resources Commission may provide either for destruction of the property or legitimate utilization of the property by some public agency.
(j) Except as provided in subsection (d), if property is seized under subsection (c) or it appears that a person not a defendant has an interest in any property to be sold, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of, the Department and the Wildlife Resources Commission must provide for public notice of the description of the property and the circumstances of its seizure for a sufficient period prior to the time set for sale or other disposition to allow innocent owners or lienholders to assert their claims. The validity of claims are to be determined by the trial court in the event there is or has been a prosecution in connection with the seizure of the property. If there has been no prosecution and none is pending, the validity of claims must be determined by the Secretary or by the Executive Director, as the case may be. When there has been a sale under subsection (g), the provisions of this subsection apply to the net proceeds of the sale.
(k) Except as provided in subsection (j) and in subdivision (3) of the first paragraph of subsection (e), the net proceeds of all sales made pursuant to this section must be deposited in the school fund of the county in which the property was seized. (1915, c. 84, s. 6; 1917, c. 290, s. 2; C.S., s. 1885; 1935, c. 118; 1953, c. 1134; 1957, c. 1423, s. 2; 1961, c. 1189, s. 4; 1965, c. 957, s. 2; 1973, c. 1262, ss. 18, 28; 1979, c. 830, s. 1; 1983 (Reg. Sess., 1984), c. 1083, ss. 1-3; 1987, c. 827, s. 98; 1993, c. 539, s. 837; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)