§199-7 Search and seizure; forfeiture of property. (a) Any police officer or agent of the department of land and natural resources upon whom the board of land and natural resources has conferred powers of police officers, shall have the authority to conduct searches on probable cause as provided by law and to seize any equipment, article, instrument, aircraft, vehicle, vessel, business records, or natural resource used or taken in violation of the provisions contained in chapters 6D, 6E, and 6K, or title 12, or any rules adopted thereunder. For purposes of this section, "natural resource" includes any archaeological artifacts, minerals, any aquatic life or wildlife or parts thereof, including their eggs, and any land plants or parts thereof, including seeds.
(b) Any equipment, article, instrument, aircraft, vehicle, vessel, business records, or natural resource seized is subject to forfeiture pursuant to chapter 712A. Unless otherwise directed by the environmental court pursuant to chapter 712A, any item, other than a natural resource, seized shall be ordered forfeited to the State for disposition as determined by the department, or may be destroyed, or may be kept and retained and utilized by the department or any other state agency. If not needed or required by the department or other state agency, the forfeited items shall be disposed of as provided by chapter 712A. Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any live natural resource seized may be immediately returned to its natural environment or suitable habitat or may be disposed of as determined by the department; provided that if the natural resource disposed of was unlawfully seized, the department shall be liable to the owner for the fair market value of the items disposed of.
(c) The department of land and natural resources shall compile a list of all equipment, articles, instruments, aircraft, vehicles, vessels, or any natural resource forfeited as provided in this section and shall publish the list in its annual report.
(d) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the department of land and natural resources may sell or take actions to cause the sale of any perishable natural resource that is seized to prevent the waste of the natural resource and to ensure the economic value of such natural resource; provided that the department may not sell or cause the sale of any threatened or endangered species or any other species whose sale is prohibited by law. The department of land and natural resources may require the person or persons who took the natural resources to sell the seized natural resources at fair market value. The department of land and natural resources may require any person purchasing any seized natural resource to deliver the proceeds of the sale to the department of land and natural resources or its authorized representative. Any person who refuses to sell the seized natural resources at fair market value or any person who fails to deliver the proceeds of the sale, as directed by the department of land and natural resources, shall be in violation of this subsection and punishable as provided by law. The department of land and natural resources shall deposit and keep the proceeds of the sale in an interest bearing account until such time as the suspected violation is settled between the person or persons who took the natural resource, consignee or consignees, if any, and the department of land and natural resources. Should a settlement not be reached, the department of land and natural resources shall submit the proceeds of the sale to the environmental court. The proceeds of the sale, after deducting any reasonable costs of the sale incurred by the department of land and natural resources, shall be subject to any administrative or judicial proceedings in the same manner as the seized natural resource would have been, including an action in rem for the forfeiture of the proceeds. Seizure and sale of a natural resource is without prejudice to any other remedy or sanction authorized by law. [L 1978, c 171, pt of §1; am L 1983, c 99, §1; am L 1985, c 222, §1; am L 1989, c 122, §1 and c 261, §9; am L 1997, c 17, §4; am L 1998, c 2, §53; am L 1999, c 233, §1; am L 2004, c 142, §14; am L 2014, c 218, §8]