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Seizure and forfeiture.

(1) The following are subject to seizure and forfeiture and no property right exists in them: All personal property, including, but not limited to, any item, object, tool, substance, device, weapon, machine, vehicle of any kind, money, security, or negotiable instrument, which has been or was actually employed as an instrumentality in the commission of, or in aiding or abetting in the commission of any felony, or which was furnished or was intended to be furnished by any person in the commission of, as a result of, or as compensation for the commission of, any felony, or which was acquired in whole or in part with proceeds traceable to the commission of a felony. No property may be forfeited under this section until after there has been a superior court conviction of the owner of the property for the felony in connection with which the property was employed, furnished, or acquired.
A forfeiture of property encumbered by a bona fide security interest is subject to the interest of the secured party if at the time the security interest was created, the secured party neither had knowledge of nor consented to the commission of the felony.
(2) Personal property subject to forfeiture under this chapter may be seized by any law enforcement officer of this state upon process issued by any superior court having jurisdiction over the property. Seizure of personal property without process may be made if:
(a) The seizure is incident to an arrest or a search under a search warrant;
(b) The property subject to seizure has been the subject of a prior judgment in favor of the state in a criminal injunction or forfeiture proceeding;
(c) A law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the property is directly dangerous to health or safety; or
(d) The law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the property was used or is intended to be used in the commission of a felony.
(3) In the event of seizure pursuant to this section, proceedings for forfeiture shall be deemed commenced by the seizure. The law enforcement agency under whose authority the seizure was made shall cause notice to be served within fifteen days following the seizure on the owner of the property seized and the person in charge thereof and any person having any known right or interest therein, including any community property interest, of the seizure and intended forfeiture of the seized property. The notice of seizure may be served by any method authorized by law or court rule including but not limited to service by certified mail with return receipt requested. Service by mail shall be deemed complete upon mailing within the fifteen day period following the seizure. Notice of seizure in the case of property subject to a security interest that has been perfected by filing a financing statement in accordance with chapter 62A.9A RCW, or a certificate of title shall be made by service upon the secured party or the secured party's assignee at the address shown on the financing statement or the certificate of title.
(4) If no person notifies the seizing law enforcement agency in writing of the person's claim of ownership or right to possession of items specified in subsection (1) of this section within forty-five days of the seizure, the item seized shall be deemed forfeited.
(5) If a person notifies the seizing law enforcement agency in writing of the person's claim of ownership or right to possession of the seized property within forty-five days of the seizure, the law enforcement agency shall give the person or persons a reasonable opportunity to be heard as to the claim or right. The hearing shall be before the chief law enforcement officer of the seizing agency or the chief law enforcement officer's designee, except where the seizing agency is a state agency as defined in RCW 34.12.020(4), the hearing shall be before the chief law enforcement officer of the seizing agency or an administrative law judge appointed under chapter 34.12 RCW, except that any person asserting a claim or right may remove the matter to a court of competent jurisdiction. Removal may only be accomplished according to the rules of civil procedure. The person seeking removal of the matter must serve process against the state, county, political subdivision, or municipality that operates the seizing agency, and any other party of interest, in accordance with RCW 4.28.080 or 4.92.020, within forty-five days after the person seeking removal has notified the seizing law enforcement agency of the person's claim of ownership or right to possession. The court to which the matter is to be removed shall be the district court when the aggregate value of the property is within the jurisdictional limit set forth in RCW 3.66.020. A hearing before the seizing agency and any appeal therefrom shall be under Title 34 RCW. In a court hearing between two or more claimants to the property involved, the prevailing party shall be entitled to a judgment for costs and reasonable attorney's fees. The burden of producing evidence shall be upon the person claiming to be the lawful owner or the person claiming to have the lawful right to possession of the property. The seizing law enforcement agency shall promptly return the property to the claimant upon a determination by the administrative law judge or court that the claimant is the present lawful owner or is lawfully entitled to possession of the property.
(6) When property is forfeited under this chapter, after satisfying any court-ordered victim restitution, the seizing law enforcement agency may:
(a) Retain it for official use or upon application by any law enforcement agency of this state release such property to such agency for the exclusive use of enforcing the criminal law;
(b) Sell that which is not required to be destroyed by law and which is not harmful to the public.
(7) By January 31st of each year, each seizing agency shall remit to the state treasurer an amount equal to ten percent of the net proceeds of any property forfeited during the preceding calendar year. Money remitted shall be deposited in the state general fund.
(a) The net proceeds of forfeited property is the value of the forfeitable interest in the property after deducting the cost of satisfying any bona fide security interest to which the property is subject at the time of seizure; and in the case of sold property, after deducting the cost of sale, including reasonable fees or commissions paid to independent selling agents.
(b) The value of sold forfeited property is the sale price. The value of retained forfeited property is the fair market value of the property at the time of seizure, determined when possible by reference to an applicable commonly used index, such as the index used by the department of licensing for valuation of motor vehicles. A seizing agency may use, but need not use, an independent qualified appraiser to determine the value of retained property. If an appraiser is used, the value of the property appraised is net of the cost of the appraisal. The value of destroyed property and retained firearms or illegal property is zero.
(c) Retained property and net proceeds not required to be paid to the state treasurer, or otherwise required to be spent under this section, shall be retained by the seizing law enforcement agency exclusively for the expansion and improvement of law enforcement activity. Money retained under this section may not be used to supplant preexisting funding sources.

NOTES:

Effective date2009 c 479: See note following RCW 2.56.030.
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