Chapter 9.47
SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE OF NUISANCE VEHICLES

Sections:

9.47.010    Purpose and intent.

9.47.020    Definitions.

9.47.030    Abatement of nuisance vehicle by seizure and forfeiture.

9.47.040    Title to vest in the City.

9.47.050    Seizure of vehicle.

9.47.060    Forfeiture and notice of intended forfeiture of vehicle.

9.47.070    Claim opposing forfeiture and court proceedings.

9.47.080    Disposal of vehicle and distribution of proceeds.

9.47.090    Stolen vehicles.

9.47.100    Recovery of monetary loss.

9.47.010 Purpose and intent.

The purpose of this chapter is to enjoin and abate nuisance vehicles by establishing a process to allow the seizure and forfeiture of such vehicles when used in conjunction with the commission or furtherance of certain criminal offenses.

The intent of this chapter is to deter persons from committing, or attempting to commit, certain criminal offenses in Palmdale. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.020 Definitions.

The following terms, as used in this chapter, are defined as follows:

(A) “Bulky item” means any discarded furniture, household, commercial or industrial appliance or equipment, as well as an abandoned vehicle, item of personal property, or part thereof.

(B) “Controlled substance” means a drug, substance or immediate precursor that is listed in any schedule in California Health and Safety Code Section 11054, 11055, 11056, 11057 or 11058.

(C) “Dangerous fireworks” means those fireworks so defined by the California Health and Safety Code, and shall not include those fireworks classified as “safe and sane” by the State Fire Marshal.

(D) “Driver” means any person who drives or is in physical control of a vehicle.

(E) “Exhibition of speed” means a willful act of showing off or displaying a dangerous or imprudent speed in a vehicle on a highway where the presence of another person is known to the driver or may reasonably be anticipated by him or her. In order to constitute an exhibition of speed under this section, there must be spectators present at the event.

(F) “Highway” means a way or place of whatever nature, which is used by the public for vehicular travel. It does not include a facility that is specifically designed and legally maintained for the purposes of speed contests or exhibitions of speed.

(G) “Illegal dumping” means a willful act of throwing, dropping, placing or depositing a bulky item, hazardous waste or solid waste on public or private real property that does not have governmental approval for said use.

(H) “Illegal weapons” means the devices or objects referred to in California Penal Code Section 12020, and the commission of any act regulated thereby, or in violation thereof.

(I) “Prostitution” means engaging in lewd or sexual conduct for money or other consideration.

(J) “Speed contest” means a contest where a vehicle is raced on a highway against another vehicle, a clock, or other timing device. In order to constitute a speed contest under this chapter, at least two vehicles must be assembled or spectators must be present at the event. An event where the time to cover a prescribed route of more than 20 miles is measured, but where the vehicle does not exceed the speed limit, is not a speed contest.

(K) “Theft” means the commission of an unlawful act as this term is defined in the California Penal Code and regardless of its form or degree. “Theft” shall, for purposes of this chapter, include any form or degree of burglary, larceny, robbery or receiving or concealing stolen property as these terms are defined by the California Penal Code.

(L) “Used” means the operation of a vehicle to commit or attempt the commission of the crimes defined in this chapter. This term shall include the operation of a vehicle while departing from the location where a crime was committed or attempted.

(M) “Vehicle” means any transportation device that is self-propelled by an engine, motor or other form of technology, and that requires the driver to have in his or her immediate possession a valid driver’s license for the appropriate class of vehicle being driven.

(N) “Waste” means and includes “hazardous waste” and “solid waste,” as these terms are defined in PMC 5.52.030 or by a subsequently amended or adopted provision in the Palmdale Municipal Code. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.030 Abatement of nuisance vehicle by seizure and forfeiture.

Any person or his or her servant, agent, or employee who owns, leases, conducts or maintains any vehicle used for any of the purposes or acts set forth in this section is responsible for creating a public nuisance. Any vehicle that is used in the commission or furtherance of the following activities is declared a nuisance and shall be enjoined and abated as provided for in this chapter.

(A) Controlled Substances. Any vehicle used to illegally acquire or attempt to illegally acquire any controlled substance.

(B) Exhibition of Speed. Any vehicle used in an exhibition of speed.

(C) Illegal Dumping. Any vehicle used for the purpose of illegal dumping or to attempt this activity.

(D) Illegal Weapons. Any vehicle used for the purpose of carrying an illegal weapon, or to commit, or attempt the commission of, any of the activities that are proscribed by California Penal Code Section 12020.

(E) Prostitution.

(1) Any vehicle used to solicit or to agree to engage in or to engage in an act of prostitution.

(2) Any vehicle used to attempt to procure another person for the purposes of prostitution.

(3) Any vehicle used to cause, induce, persuade or encourage, by promises, threats, violence, or by any device or scheme, another person to become a prostitute.

(F) Speed Contest. Any vehicle used in a speed contest.

(G) Theft. Any vehicle used to commit or attempt a theft.

(H) Fireworks. Any vehicle carrying or used to transport or store dangerous fireworks, or to transport or store any fireworks, including those classified as “safe and sane” by the State Fire Marshal, in a hazardous fire area. (Ord. 1265 § 1, 2005; Ord. U-1265 § 1, 2005; Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.040 Title to vest in the City.

All rights, title and interest in any vehicle described in PMC 9.47.030 shall vest in the City upon commission of the act giving rise to the nuisance under this chapter. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.050 Seizure of vehicle.

(A) A Peace Officer may seize a vehicle subject to forfeiture under this chapter upon the issuance of an order by a court having jurisdiction of the vehicle. Seizure without court order may be made in any of the following circumstances:

(1) The seizure is incident to an arrest or search under a search warrant.

(2) There is probable cause to believe the vehicle was used in violation of this chapter.

(B) A Peace Officer seizing a vehicle under this chapter shall complete a receipt in accordance with Penal Code Section 1412 and deliver it to the person from whose possession the vehicle was seized.

(C) Within two business days of seizing the vehicle, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shall file a post-seizure statement of probable cause for review by a neutral magistrate. The reviewing magistrate shall limit review to the question of whether probable cause exists for the vehicle to be held under this chapter. If the reviewing magistrate finds that no probable cause exists for the vehicle to be held, the vehicle shall, within two business days of that finding, be made available to be released to the registered or legal owner as may be identified pursuant to the investigation required by subsection (D) of this section.

(D) Upon seizure of the vehicle, an immediate investigation shall be made by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as to any potential claimant to a vehicle whose right, title, interest, or lien is of record in the Department of Motor Vehicles of this or any other state or appropriate federal agency. If the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department finds that any person, other than the registered owner, is the legal owner, and the ownership did not arise subsequent to the date and time of arrest or seizure of the vehicle or notification of the forfeiture proceedings, it shall, within four business days of the vehicle’s seizure, send a notice of seizure to the legal owner at his or her address appearing on the records of the Department of Motor Vehicles of this or any other state or any appropriate federal agency.

(E) The notice of seizure sent pursuant to the requirements of subsection (C) of this section shall set forth the time in which a claim of interest in the vehicle seized or subject to forfeiture is required to be filed.

(F) A vehicle seized pursuant to this section, where appropriate, may be held as evidence in any proceeding brought by the City Attorney or District Attorney. (Ord. 1265 § 2, 2005; Ord. U-1265 § 2, 2005; Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.060 Forfeiture and notice of intended forfeiture of vehicle.

(A) The City Attorney, or his designee attorney, may, pursuant to this section, order the forfeiture of vehicles seized under this chapter.

(B) If the City Attorney, or his designee attorney, determines that the factual circumstances warrant forfeiture of the vehicle described in PMC 9.47.030, he or she shall serve a notice of intended forfeiture upon any person who has an interest in the seized vehicle. The notice shall be served within 30 calendar days of the finding of probable cause by the neutral magistrate.

(C) The notice of intended forfeiture shall be served as follows:

(1) By personal delivery or certified mail, return receipt requested, upon any person who has an interest in the seized vehicle as determined pursuant to PMC 9.47.050(C).

(2) In the event that the person entitled to service refuses to accept certified return receipt mail or cannot be personally served, service may be made by substituted service. Substituted service may be accomplished by any one of the following methods:

(a) By leaving a copy during usual business hours at the recipient’s business with the person who is apparently in charge, and by thereafter mailing by first class mail a copy to the recipient where the copy was left.

(b) By leaving a copy at the recipient’s dwelling or usual place of abode, in the presence of a competent member of the household and thereafter mailing by first class mail a copy to the recipient at the address where the copy was left.

(c) If the person entitled to service resides out of state and will not accept certified return receipt mail, then service may be made by first class mail.

(d) If the person entitled to notice cannot be located, or service cannot be accomplished as set forth in this section, service may be made by publication in a Palmdale newspaper of general circulation. Service shall be deemed sufficient when it is accomplished pursuant to Government Code Section 6063.

(D) A notice of seizure and intended forfeiture shall include:

(1) A description of the vehicle, as well as the date and place of its seizure.

(2) The authority and reason for the seizure.

(3) The name, address and telephone number of the public agency providing the notice.

(4) The instructions and time limits for filing and serving a claim with the court pursuant to PMC 9.47.070. The notice shall contain a statement that, in order to receive a post-seizure hearing, a claimant shall request a hearing in person or in writing with the court within 10 calendar days of the date of the notice. (Ord. 1265 § 3, 2005; Ord. U-1265 § 3, 2005; Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.070 Claim opposing forfeiture and court proceedings.

(A) A person claiming an interest in the vehicle seized pursuant to PMC 9.47.050 must within 10 calendar days from the date of the notice of intended forfeiture or within 30 calendar days from the date of first publication of the notice of seizure, file with the Los Angeles County Superior Court: (North District) or the superior court of the County in which the property was seized if not in Los Angeles County, a claim opposing forfeiture, verified in accordance with California Code of Civil Procedure Section 446, stating his or her interest in the property, along with a filing fee as may be required by the court. The person filing the claim shall be responsible for filing an endorsed copy of the claim upon the City Attorney within 10 calendar days of the filing of the claim in court. If the seizure is incident to a first-time violation of this chapter, the claimant may post a bond with the City in an amount equal to the Kelly Blue Book suggested retail value, or equivalent valuation acceptable to the City, to retain against sale or disposal of the vehicle pending final adjudication of the forfeiture. Upon posting of the bond, the City shall release the vehicle to the registered or legal owner.

(B) If a verified claim is filed in accordance with this section, the forfeiture proceeding shall be set for a court hearing within 30 calendar days from the date the claim is filed.

(C) The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply to proceedings under this section unless otherwise inconsistent with the provisions or procedures set forth in this chapter. However, in proceedings under this section, there shall be no joinder of actions, coordination of actions, except for forfeiture proceedings, or cross-complaints, and the issues shall be limited strictly to those related to this chapter. Any trial pursuant to this chapter shall be before the court.

(D) With respect to vehicles described in PMC 9.47.030 for which forfeiture is sought and as to which forfeiture is contested, the City Attorney shall have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the vehicle constituted a nuisance pursuant to this chapter.

(E) Upon proof that the vehicle was used in connection with any of the activities set forth in PMC 9.47.030, the court shall declare the vehicle a nuisance and order that it be forfeited, sold, and the proceeds distributed as set forth in PMC 9.47.080.

(F) If no claims are timely filed, the City Attorney shall prepare a written declaration of forfeiture of the vehicle to the City. A written declaration of forfeiture signed by the City Attorney under this section shall be deemed to provide good and sufficient title to the forfeited property. The proceeds from the disposal of the vehicle declared forfeited by the City Attorney shall be distributed in accordance with PMC 9.47.080. The City Attorney ordering forfeiture pursuant to this section shall provide a copy of the declaration of forfeiture to any person who received notice of the forfeiture proceedings. (Ord. 1265 § 4, 2005; Ord. U-1265 § 4, 2005; Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.080 Disposal of vehicle and distribution of proceeds.

(A) In all cases where vehicles seized pursuant to this chapter are forfeited to the City, the vehicles shall be sold, or if cash is paid as settlement in lieu of forfeiture of the vehicle, the proceeds of sale or settlement shall be distributed and appropriated as follows:

(1) To pay costs associated with the towing, storage and release of any vehicle seized under this chapter.

(2) To pay costs associated with the sale of the vehicle.

(3) To the bona fide or innocent purchaser, conditional sales vendor, mortgagee or lien holder of the vehicle, if any, up to the amount of his or her interest in the property.

(B) The remaining funds shall be distributed as follows:

(1) To the City Attorney for all expenditures other than personnel costs, made or incurred by his or her office in connection with the enforcement of this chapter, including, but not limited to, costs for equipment, investigation, supplies, litigation, as well as insurance and liability resulting from enforcement of this chapter and costs of publication of the notices set forth in PMC 9.47.060.

(2) To the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for all expenditures other than personnel costs, made or incurred by the agency in connection with enforcement of this chapter.

(3) To the general fund.

(C) For budgeting purposes, funds obtained from enforcement of this chapter shall not be considered anticipated revenue into the general fund.

(D) If a vehicle that is forfeited pursuant to this chapter is not legally saleable due to modifications thereto prior to the seizure, the City Attorney may cause its destruction and any funds received by the City for its scrap value shall be applied in accordance with this section. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.090 Stolen vehicles.

A vehicle that has been reported stolen, prior to a seizure under this chapter, shall not be subject to forfeiture unless the identity of the registered owner cannot be reasonably ascertained or the registered owner fails to redeem the vehicle within 30 calendar days of the seizure. The registered owner of the vehicle may claim the vehicle upon payment of tow, storage and release charges, provided the vehicle is not subject to any holds for traffic or parking violations and the vehicle registration is current. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)

9.47.100 Recovery of monetary loss.

Nothing in this chapter shall preclude a person with an ownership or secured interest in the vehicle who suffers a monetary loss from the forfeiture of a vehicle under this chapter from recovering the amount of the actual monetary loss from a driver or responsible person. (Ord. 1247 § 1, 2004)