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Chris July 7, 2016

When the police investigate crimes and make arrests, they often seize evidence. A lot of time that is the subject of the crime, such as drugs or weapons. Other times, it is objects found with that evidence or containing evidence, such as papers, cell phones, personal effects, cars and money. In many cases, that property belongs to someone other than who was arrested. Chances are they want it back.

Drug crimes at both the state and federal level may trigger the forfeiture process–the government can seize and use or sell the items used in the commission of the crime. The State can also seize money that was used or received in drug transactions. The owner of the property, if it is subject to forfeiture proceedings, must receive notice by mail of the State’s intent to seek forfeiture and have a right to a hearing. When forfeiture is not sought, it is up to the criminal court to order the property returned. In many cases the property, if owned by the defendant, becomes part of negotiations on the case. If it doesn’t, the defendant has until the case’s disposition to move for the return of the property.

When property owned by someone other than the defendant is seized, the owner must ask for it to be returned because only the owner has standing to do so. The owner should contact the defendant’s attorney. The defendant might have to stipulate to secondary evidence for the State to agree to the return of the evidence. I’ve had several cases like this in Meriden and New Haven that involved cars and phones and filed motions for the return of seized property. In one case my client was in jail so we had the car releasable to his wife.

It is always the court’s decision to order items returned. Courts will not return illegal items (e.g. drugs) and might not return items that could be legal but are not appropriate (e.g. personal pictures or private information of another person).

If you had items seized by the police in your case or someone else’s and want it back, call an attorney, preferably me if you are in Connecticut. I just probably won’t be able to get your drugs back.