379.339 Seizure of illegal hunting devices; disposition; notice; forfeiture.—In order to protect the state’s wildlife resources, any vehicle, vessel, animal, gun, light, or other hunting device used or attempted to be used in connection with, as an instrumentality of, or in aiding and abetting in the commission of an offense prohibited by s. 379.404 is subject to seizure and forfeiture. The provisions of chapter 932 do not apply to any seizure or forfeiture under this section. For purposes of this section, a conviction is any disposition other than acquittal or dismissal.
(1)(a) Upon a first conviction of the person in whose possession the property was found, the court having jurisdiction over the criminal offense, notwithstanding any jurisdictional limitations on the amount in controversy, may make a finding that the property was used in connection with a violation of s. 379.404. Upon such finding, the court may order the property forfeited to the commission.
(b) Upon a second or subsequent conviction of a person in whose possession the property was found for a violation of s. 379.404, the court shall order the forfeiture to the commission of any property used in connection with that violation.
(2) The requirement for a conviction before forfeiture establishes, to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt, that the property was used in connection with that violation. Prior to the issuance of a forfeiture order for any vessel, vehicle, or other property under subsection (1), the commission shall seize the property and notify the registered owner, if any, that the property has been seized by the commission.
(3) Notification of property seized under this section must be sent by certified mail to a registered owner within 14 days after seizure. If the commission, after diligent inquiry, cannot ascertain the registered owner, the notice requirement is satisfied.
(4)(a) For a first conviction of an offense under s. 379.404, property seized by the commission shall be returned to the registered owner if the commission fails to prove by a preponderance of the evidence before the court having jurisdiction over the criminal offense that the registered owner aided in, abetted in, participated in, gave consent to, knew of, or had reason to know of the offense.
(b) Upon a second or subsequent conviction for an offense under s. 379.404, the burden shall be on the registered owner to prove by a preponderance of the evidence before the court having jurisdiction over the criminal offense that the registered owner in no way aided in, abetted in, participated in, knew of, or had reason to know of the second offense which resulted in seizure of the lawful property.
(c) Any request for a hearing from a registered owner asserting innocence to recover property seized under these provisions must be sent to the commission’s Division of Law Enforcement within 21 days after the registered owner’s receipt of the notice of seizure. If a request for a hearing is not timely received, the court shall forfeit to the commission the right to, title to, and interest in the property seized, subject only to the rights and interests of bona fide lienholders.
(5) All amounts received from the sale or other disposition of the property shall be paid into the State Game Trust Fund. If the property is not sold or converted, it shall be delivered to the executive director of the commission.
History.—s. 1, ch. 65-340; s. 3, ch. 98-391; s. 180, ch. 99-245; s. 9, ch. 2002-264; s. 124, ch. 2008-247.