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Return of Property Once It’s Seized By Police

There are several ways the police can end up with your property. Several of the most common methods of seizure include the following:

1. During an arrest your personal property is taken into custody for safe keeping and booked into property;
2. Property has been found at a crime scene and you get notified; and/or you lend your car or other legitimately possessed article of property to someone who gets arrested;
3. You or your property is the subject of a search pursuant to a search warrant.

Below I’ll let you know how to get your property back in each of these situations. There may be other ways the police come to have your property and if that happens there are usually ways to get it back.

Once a person is arrested not only does the person get taken into custody but the property the person was carrying or had in his car often gets booked as well. When property is placed into the category of property of the arrestee, and not booked as evidence, it usually will be returned when the person is released from custody. The police will simply give the items back to the presumed owner when he or she is released.

There could be complications such as the police suspecting that property to be stolen or the arrestee can’t or doesn’t claim ownership of some or all of the items. If the property is stolen the arrestee often will say it’s not his or hers or that he or she doesn’t know where it came from. Of course, if that happens then the property won’t be returned to the arrestee. That is the unusual situation and not covered here.

If your property has been found at a crime scene and isn’t booked into evidence one can usually handle this matter informally. The innocent owner of the property simply calls the police who seized the items and explains that they own the items and if there isn’t any significance to the investigation the police can authorize you to pick them up without further issue.

If you lend your car to someone who then uses it in a crime the return of that property can be a problem. Often the car needs to be preserved as evidence. If the case goes to court then the Defendant’s lawyer may not want the car released until forensic tests can be conducted. If that is the situation you will have to wait until all sides agree the car can be released to you and the judge signs an order to that effect. The lesson to be learned here is be careful who you loan your car to or you may never see it again.

If your property has been taken pursuant to a search warrant the District Attorney will have to agree to the return. If so, then a Stipulation and Order for Return of Property can be signed by all parties and the property returned by court order. Depending on the importance, or lack thereof, of the items this may be an easy proposition.

If the District Attorney objects to the return you have almost no chance of getting it back while the case is still pending. The judge doesn’t want to order return of property which the District Attorney feels would be important to their case so having a working relationship with the District Attorney is very important. It can be done but the Defendant’s attorney will need to convince the District Attorney that return won’t hurt the case.

Based on your situation, you may need a lawyer to get your property back. If you are charged with a crime then, no doubt, you want your lawyer to be the one asking for its return.