How to Get Seized Property Back from the Police in Utah

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Getting arrested for any reason is a stressful situation. Not only is your freedom restricted, but your property is taken from you as well. Reclaiming your property from police after being arrested may also lead to some complications. Police may believe the property they seized from you is contraband or essential evidence in a case against you or someone else. If you have been arrested and you believe your property was unlawfully seized by the Salt Lake City Police Department, you should speak with Salt Lake City property seizure lawyer Darwin Overson of Overson Law. Darwin explains when and how police can permanently seize your property. If you were arrested and had your property taken, contact our law offices today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.

What Property Can Utah Police Keep?

When you are arrested, police may search your person and the immediate area around you to look for dangerous weapons or any other contraband you may have. In the state of Utah, contraband is considered as any property, item, or substance that is unlawful to produce or own under state or federal law. Property which may be deemed as contraband includes:

  • Concealable switchblade knives;
  • Unlicensed firearms or illegal firearms;
  • Illegal drugs or drugs which are not prescribed to you;
  • Drug paraphernalia designed to make or use drugs;
  • Explosives;
  • Counterfeit currency;
  • Other kinds of illegal property.

When police seize contraband from a suspect, it is likely destroyed or kept indefinitely by police. Items that are contraband will not be returned to you. While not exactly contraband, items like alcoholic beverages, ammunition, flammable items, and other consumable items will not be returned to you.

What Happens When Police Book Me and Seize My Property?

Once you are arrested and taken into custody, an inventory of your items is completed. Items which are typically taken for inventory include things like money, jewelry, wallets/purses, cellphones, and other similar items. These items can be searched and taken without a warrant under the theory that a list of your items is required to ensure that they get all of your stuff back to you. This also ensures officer safety by making sure your bag doesn’t have a bomb in it or anything to that effect. Anything seized this way could legally be used as evidence against you.

If you are charged with certain offenses in Utah, any property considered evidence may be retained by police indefinitely, these offenses include:

  • Arson
  • Aggravated assault
  • Criminal homicide offenses
  • Aggravated kidnapping/kidnapping
  • Rape/rape of a child
  • Forcible sexual abuse
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Aggravated burglary/burglary
  • Aggravated robbery/robbery

In certain cases, the police may believe that a piece of property they find was used in a crime or was the result/proceeds of a crime you were arrested for. In these situations, the prosecutor in your case may choose to file a civil suit against you to force you to forfeit the property to the government. This “civil forfeiture” is a complex process, but to keep it short, a prosecutor needs to show that:

  • The defendant has engaged in conduct giving rise to forfeiture;
  • The property was acquired by the defendant in the commission of an act that gives rise to forfeiture;
  • There is no likely source for the purchase or acquisition of the property besides the commission of the act that gave rise to forfeiture.

Property that can be seized in civil forfeiture actions include:

  • Cellphones and smartphones used to facilitate the sale of illegal drugs
  • Computer equipment used to commit cyber crimes
  • Real estate
  • Money
  • Vehicles
  • Weapons

Utah’s civil forfeiture law allows police to permanently seize property on mere allegations of criminal activity – they don’t even need to file any charges or convict anyone of a crime. These laws disproportionately affect members of the population who generally avoid mainstream banking. Utah police typically seize the following kinds of property:

  • Cash (86.4% of all property seizures)
  • Property related to a drug offense (97.5% of all forfeitures)
  • Property taken during enforcement stops (only one-third of enforcement stops result in an arrest)

Release of Property Seized by Police

Property which is not considered evidence is usually returned after an individual is released from custody and can prove ownership of the property. Property considered evidence is only released in the following instances:

  • In compliance with a court order.
  • Property not accepted into court at the time of trial can be released when no further prosecution will be sought. This requires a letter from the prosecutor authorizing the release.
  • After the final disposition of a case (e.g. dismissal, acquittal, refusal to prosecute). This also requires letter from the prosecutor.

If your property has been taken by Utah police and you wish to have it back, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney.

Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations

If you or a loved one has been arrested and had property seized by police, speak with a Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer about your case immediately. The attorneys at Overson Law will fight tirelessly for your property rights. To schedule your free consultation, call our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.


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