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When can law enforcement take my belongings?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Typically, your property has protection under state and federal laws. Another person cannot just come up to you and deprive you of an asset because that is an act of theft. You can prosecute those who take your possessions without consent, and you can even sue those who damage your property.

However, sometimes you can lose an asset because another party takes it from you without breaking the law. You may have no way to reclaim that property other than going to court. Police officers are among those who sometimes have the authority to seize property from an individual or a business.

When can law enforcement officers in Georgia take your personal property?

When it is evidence in a criminal case

Sometimes, police officers will seize personal assets because they are evidence in criminal proceedings. Electronic devices and even vehicles could serve a crucial role in a criminal case. When the assets themselves are evidence, police officers can seize and indefinitely retain that evidence in many cases.

The state may keep evidence until the conclusion of a trial in some cases. Other times, they only need photographs or forensic evidence gathered by testing the property. The owners of these assets will sometimes get them back.

When the police can connect the property to criminal activity

Your property doesn’t have to be possible evidence of a crime for it to be at risk of police taking it without permission or compensation. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to take property used in the commission of a crime or obtained with money from a criminal enterprise.

The goal of these laws is to help police departments fund themselves by seizing criminal assets and allowing proceeds from the sales of that property to contribute to law enforcement budgets. Unfortunately, Georgia has a history of abuses of this system. There are minimal oversights, and state law does not even require a criminal conviction for police officers to take and keep your property.

Those who have lost property civil asset forfeiture may be able to get those assets back, but they will likely have to go to court to do so. Understanding when the state can take your property can hope those dealing with criminal charges and civil asset forfeiture.