105-113.31. Possession and transportation of non-tax-paid cigarettes; seizure and confiscation of vehicle or vessel.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person to transport non-tax-paid cigarettes in violation of this Part. The Secretary may adopt rules allowing quantities of non-tax-paid cigarettes, not exceeding six hundred, to be brought into this State by a transient, a tourist, or a person returning to this State after traveling outside this State, for their own use. The possession or transportation of these cigarettes is not subject to the penalties imposed by this section.

(b) (1) Every person who transports non-tax-paid cigarettes on the public highways, roads, streets, or waterways of this State must transport with the cigarettes invoices or delivery tickets for the cigarettes showing the true name and complete and exact address of the consignee or purchaser, the quantity and brands of the cigarettes transported, and the true name and complete and exact address of the person who has paid or who will pay the tax imposed by this Part or the tax, if any, of the state or foreign country at the point of ultimate destination.

(2) A common carrier that has issued a bill of lading for a shipment of cigarettes and is without notice to itself or to any of its agents or employees that the cigarettes are non-tax-paid in violation of this Part is considered to have complied with this Part and the vehicle or vessel in which the cigarettes are being transported is not subject to confiscation under this section. In the absence of the required invoices, delivery tickets, or bills of lading, the cigarettes so transported, the vehicle or vessel in which the cigarettes are being transported, and any paraphernalia or devices used in connection with the non-tax-paid cigarettes are declared to be contraband goods and may be seized by any officer of the law, who shall take possession of the vehicle or vessel and cigarettes and shall arrest any person in charge of the vehicle or vessel and cigarettes.

(3) The officer shall at once proceed against the person arrested, under the provisions of this Part, in any court having competent jurisdiction; but the vehicle or vessel shall be returned to the owner upon execution by the owner of a good and valid bond, with sufficient sureties, in a sum double the value of the property, which bond shall be approved by the officer and shall be conditioned to return the property to the custody of the officer on the day of trial to abide the judgment of the court. All non-tax-paid cigarettes seized under this section shall be held and shall, upon the acquittal of the person so charged, be returned to the established owner.

(4) Unless the claimant can show that the non-tax-paid cigarettes seized were not transported in violation of this Part and that the property seized belongs to the claimant or that in the case of property other than cigarettes, the property was used in transporting non-tax-paid cigarettes in violation of this Part without the claimant's knowledge or consent, with the right on the part of the claimant to have a jury pass upon this claim, the court shall order a sale by public auction of the property seized, and the officer making the sale, after deducting the cost of the tax due, which the officer shall pay upon sale, expenses of keeping the property, the fee for the seizure, and the costs of the sale, shall pay all liens according to their priorities, which are established, by intervention or otherwise, at the hearing or in another proceeding brought for the purpose as being bona fide and as having been created without the lien or having any notice that the vehicle or vessel was being used for the unlawful transportation of non-tax-paid cigarettes, and shall pay the balance of the proceeds to the State Treasurer for the General Fund.

(5) All liens against property sold under the provisions of this section shall be transferred from the property to the proceeds of the sale of the property. If, however, no one is found claiming the cigarettes, or the vehicle or vessel, then the taking of the cigarettes, vehicle, or vessel, along with a description, shall be advertised in a newspaper having circulation in the county where the items were taken, once a week for two weeks and by notices posted in three public places near the place of seizure, and if no claimant appears within ten days after the last publication of the advertisement, the property shall be sold, and the proceeds, after deducting the expenses and costs, shall be paid to the State Treasurer for the General Fund.

(6) This section does not authorize an officer to search any vehicle or vessel or baggage of any person without a search warrant duly issued, except where the officer has knowledge that there are non-tax-paid cigarettes in the vehicle or vessel. (1969, c. 1075, s. 2; 1973, c. 476, s. 193; 1993, c. 442, s. 12.)