Drug Compartments in Cars–Proposed Law and Forfeiture

There is a new Pennsylvania House Bill, no 1521 of 2011 pending that will make it illegal to possess any vehicle will illegal compartments. Section 907(d) of title 18 of the Crimes Code is to be amended by adding a definition and the section to read:
§ 907. POSSESSING INSTRUMENTS OF CRIME.
C.1) unlawful false or secret compartment. a person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a false or secret compartment in a motor vehicle with the intent to employ the false or secret compartment criminally.
(D) DEFINITIONS. AS USED IN THIS SECTION,
“False or secret compartment.” any enclosure integrated into a motor vehicle that is a modification of the motor vehicle as built by the manufacturer.

More significantly, any vehicle found with such a compartment is subject to forfeiture under 42 Pa.C.S.A § 6801.2. This provision states: Forfeiture Of Vehicle With Unlawful False Or Secret Compartment: (a) Forfeiture.
(1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), a vehicle used in the commission of an offense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 907(C.1) (RELATING TO POSSESSING INSTRUMENTS OF CRIME) shall be subject to forfeiture to the Commonwealth; and no property right shall exist in the vehicle.
(2) The following apply:
(i) NO vehicle used by a common carrier in the transaction of business as a common carrier shall be forfeited unless the Commonwealth establishes that the owner or other person in charge of the VEHICLE was a consenting party or privy to the offense.
(ii) no vehicle shall be forfeited under the provisions of this section by reason of any act or omission established by the owner thereof to have been committed or omitted without his knowledge or consent, which absence or knowledge or consent must be reasonable under the circumstances presented.
(b) The vehicles subject to forfeiture under this section may be seized by the law enforcement authority upon process issued by a court of common pleas having jurisdiction over the vehicle. Seizure without process may be made if any of the following apply:
(1) The seizure is incident to an arrest, a search under a search warrant or an inspection under an administrative inspection warrant.
(2) The vehicle has been the subject of a prior judgment in favor of the Commonwealth in a criminal injunction or forfeiture proceeding under this chapter.
(3) There is probable cause to believe that the vehicle has been or is intended to be used in the commission of an offense under 18 Pa.C.S. § 907(C.1).
(c) Seizure without process. If seizure is made without process, proceedings for the issuance THEREOF shall be instituted FORTHWITH.
(d) Custody. A vehicle taken or detained under this section shall not be subject to replevin but is deemed to be in the custody of the law enforcement authority, subject only to the orders and decrees of the court of common pleas having jurisdiction over the forfeiture proceedings and of the district attorney or the Attorney General. When a vehicle is seized under this section, the law enforcement authority shall place the vehicle under seal and either:
(1) remove it to a place determined by the law enforcement authority; or
(2) request that the district attorney or Attorney General take custody of it and remove it to an appropriate location for disposition in accordance with law.
(e) Use of vehicle held in custody. When a vehicle is forfeited under this section, it shall be transferred to the custody of the district attorney if the law enforcement authority seizing the vehicle has local or county jurisdiction or of the Attorney General if the law enforcement authority seizing the vehicle has Statewide jurisdiction. The district attorney or the Attorney General, where appropriate, may:
(1) Retain the vehicle for official use.
(2) SELL ANY VEHICLE WHICH IS NOT REQUIRED TO BE DESTROYED BY LAW AND WHICH IS NOT HARMFUL TO THE PUBLIC, THE proceeds from the sale shall ANY SUCH SALE TO be used to pay all proper expenses of the proceedings for forfeiture and sale, including expenses of seizure, maintenance of custody, advertising and court costs. The balance of the proceeds shall be dealt with under subsections (f) and (g).
(f) Use of proceeds. Proceeds TRANSFERRED TO THE CUSTODY OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY PURSUANT TO subsection (e)(2) shall be placed in the operating fund of the county in which the district attorney is elected. The appropriate county authority shall immediately release from the operating fund, without restriction, that amount for the use of the district attorney in enforcing the criminal laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The entity having budgetary control shall not anticipate future forfeitures or proceeds from forfeiture in adoption and approval of the budget for the district attorney.
(g) Distribution among law enforcement authorities. If both municipal and State law enforcement authorities were substantially involved in effecting the seizure, the court having jurisdiction over the forfeiture proceedings shall EQUITABLY DISTRIBUTE THE PROPERTY BETWEEN THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND ATTORNEY GENERAL.
(H) AUTHORIZATION TO UTILIZE PROPERTY. THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SHALL UTILIZE FORFEITED PROPERTY OR PROCEEDS THEREOF FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENFORCING THE CRIMINALS LAWS OF THIS COMMONWEALTH.
(K) Proceeds and appropriations. The proceeds or future proceeds from vehicles forfeited under this section shall be in addition to any appropriation made to the Office of Attorney General.
Section 3. This act shall take effect in 60 days.

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