Search and seizure laws have been coming under intense scrutiny because of the many abuses that have caused considerable inconvenience to average citizens. In many cases, these citizens get caught up in criminal or civil investigations merely because of some association with the subjects of an investigation.
Sometimes, they have no connection to a crime at all. Getting their property back after seizure can entail considerable time, trouble and expense for these individuals. A search and seizure attorney in Phoenix, Arizona can advise these individuals on their legal rights and the best way to proceed in these cases.
Reasons for Seizing Property
Search and seizure is a tactic used by law enforcement to inspect individual’s home, car, business or person to find information on a crime. In general, people in America are covered by the 4th amendment of the Constitution, which protects against illegal searches and seizures. Law enforcement must have a search warrant to inspect property.
Evidence discovered under an illegal search cannot be used in court. However, if you consent to an inspection by the police, it is considered a legal search and property can be confiscated. A search and seizure may also be legal if the police have cause to think evidence of a crime might be on the property.
A search and seizure attorney can provide information on whether a search or seizure has been conducted legally or not. One of the more confusing aspects of seizure law is when the property can be seized as being evidence in a crime, although the person owning the property is not involved in the crime.
Even when the property is cleared of being the result of a crime, it may still be held by the state. It is entirely the individual’s responsibility to prove ownership of the property, as well as prove why it was seized inappropriately.
Types of Property That Can Be Seized
Any type of valuable can be seized as being either evidence of a commission of a crime or of financial gain that occurred because of a crime. Cars, computers, cameras, clothing, jewelry, tools, equipment and even cash can be confiscated as evidence. Once these items enter the system, they may or may not be retained for use in a criminal or civil case.
Many times, the evidence needed to successfully prosecute a case is not present, and the legal case evaporates, but the forfeited goods still remains in the system, either waiting for the legal process to recover it to be completed or waiting for it to be sold and the profits incorporated into the law enforcement budget. In most case, the owners of the property face a time limit within which they must make their case or lose the property.
The Process of Getting Property Back
The process of getting your property back is determined by statute in the state in which it was confiscated. Some states have a fairly lax process of returning seized property back to the individuals who were not involved in the commission of any crime. Arizona has a rigorous process of recovering seized property.
In most cases, individuals benefit from having an attorney who is experienced in search and seizure law to help them navigate the often-complicated process of recovering money or property from the state. The attorney can then help the individual file a timely claim for the forfeited property and determine whether local, state or federal law will be applied in regard to it. The attorney can also help the individual compile the correct documents to prove ownership. Finally, the attorney will help the individual keep track of court appearances in regard to the case.
Arizona Law Makes Recovery Challenging
The state of Arizona has a forfeiture law that makes it prone to a number of issues. In their zeal to undermine financial incentives for drug smuggling and other illegal activities, they have made it too easy to make forfeiture errors that can lead to lengthy court involvement for individuals trying to get their property back.
Property that has been obtained through civil forfeiture goes directly into the budgets for law enforcement. As a result, they are often quick to forfeit and do not feel any inclination, nor are they legally required to, assist the individual who is trying to get their property back. As a result, the individual may face a runaround of legal hoops through which to jump, with many delays, lost paperwork and a general lack of interest in having the matter come to a conclusion.
An Unsuccessful Claim Imposes An Additional Penalty
In Arizona, if an individual fails to prove ownership and win his case to recover property, he or she must pay the court expenses of the state. This rule imposes an additional financial burden on individuals that often causes them to avoid filing a case to recover their property for fear it might bring more costs. Having an experienced search and seizure attorney representing your interests improves the odds of having a successful recovery result.
Problems of Property Recovery
A number of problems have occurred regarding current forfeiture laws in Arizona, when judges have decided against the interest of individuals seeking to recover their property.
In many cases, the forfeiture took place mistakenly. Sometimes, no charges were filed against the person or anyone else. In other cases, the property was determined to not be part of a criminal activity at all. However, the forfeiture remained in effect. The entire burden of not only proving ownership, but also showing the forfeiture took place illegally remains on the owner. In these situations, an experienced search and seizure attorney in Phoenix, Arizona can provide the legal assistance needed to influence judges’ decisions in regard to restoring property to the rightful owner.
An Obstacle Course of Litigation in AZ
Individuals who are trying to recover property from forfeiture must often spend time away from work or family responsibilities to attend court sessions or collect information to present in court. The inconvenience can be a burden in addition to the loss of their property. A search and seizure attorney can assist with time limits, court dates and other matters that can cause recovery cases to drag on interminably. An attorney can be your advocate while you are attending to other aspects of your life.
Recovering property that has been seized by the police can be a lengthy and frustrating process. A search and seizure attorney in Phoenix, Arizona can help you navigate the process and help you achieve a successful result.
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Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.