Having your property taken by the police is a supremely frustrating situation. Many people do not realize that law enforcement has the power to seize cash and assets from individuals who they suspect may be involved in criminal activities. As we discussed in an earlier blog, an officer may seize a considerable amount of your property when you have not been so much as charged with a crime.
After your property is seized the question quickly becomes, “When do I get my stuff back?”. The answer is often complicated and can be just as frustrating as having it taken in the first place. One of the best first steps you can take to reclaiming what is yours is to speak with an experienced attorney. They will do everything in their power to do right by you.
Reclaiming seized property
First and foremost, if the property seized from you is contraband, it will not be returned under any circumstance. Contraband refers to anything that is illegal to possess or transport – such as illegal drugs – and also includes property that is legal to possess but has been determined by a court to be illegal because of how it was being used. For example, a can of spray paint used to write graffiti is legal property which may become contraband.
Law enforcement will sometimes take property for safe keeping. If this was the case, you should have had the property returned to you upon being released from custody. Often if you contact the police department, you should be able to arrange a future time to have your property returned to you.
A more common situation is that your property has been seized as evidence. Anything from a backpack to a vehicle to an entire home may be seized for this reason. This property is likely to be held until the conclusion of your case, and even then, may take months or even years to be returned. Your attorney will most likely need to speak with the prosecutor to have your items returned to you.
One of the most complicated situations for having property returned is when police seize something without filing charges. Depending on the situation, you may have the right to a hearing to contest the forfeiture. This, again, is a job an attorney is the best equipped to handle. They will effectively present the facts and do what they can to have what is rightfully yours returned to you.
Having what is yours seized without warning and without charge may sound like boldfaced robbery, but it is in accordance with the law. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to speak to a professional as soon as possible.