Folks involved with criminal proceedings rightly worry about their freedom. However, the seizure of property is also a common concern in criminal cases. You might wonder whether it's appropriate for the police to seize your property. A criminal defense lawyer will want you to know these three things about search and seizure law.
Generally, the most ironclad basis for the seizure of a person's property is in connection with a search warrant. When the cops obtain a search warrant, they have to provide an affidavit to a judge explaining what the possible criminal offense is. Likewise, they have to clearly state what it is they expect to find and where they believe they will find it.
When the police execute the search warrant, they can then proceed to those areas of your property and look for the specific items named in the warrant. Normally, they aren't supposed to search for and seize anything that wasn't declared to the court. However, there are numerous exceptions, such as implements in plain sight that were related to the alleged crime.
Also, they can seize anything related to a subsequent crime. For example, if a person resisted the service of the warrant and drew a weapon, the police would be within their rights to seize the weapon.
Notably, you have the right to receive a copy of the search warrant. You can then share this with a criminal defense lawyer if you think there's anything off with it.
Items Related to Arrests
Similar rules apply when the police arrest someone without a warrant. If the cops pull a driver over on suspicion of DUI, for example, the police would be allowed to seize any drugs that were in plain sight on the passenger seat. Also, the police would be allowed to seize any drugs found on the driver's person during a subsequent body search.
More extensive searches may require warrants. For example, the police have to impound a car that they suspect is tied to drug trafficking. They can only search the vehicle once they have obtained a warrant.
What Happens to Your Stuff?
Civil forfeiture laws make this question a bit tricky. The police are supposed to hold onto the assets until they no longer have relevance to the case. However, civil forfeiture laws often allow the court to transfer the assets to the state even if you are found innocent. You will then have to file a civil claim and demand a hearing where the burden of proof will be on you.
If you have more questions, reach out to a local criminal defense lawyer.