FAQ: Seizure of Property

When you are involved in a criminal investigation or arrested, cited, charged or summoned to appear in court, some of your property and personal belongings may be seized by the government. This personal property may include money, vehicles, homes, cell phones, cameras, computers and all other types of assets. Depending on the reason for seizure, you may or may not get your property back. When your property is returned will also depend on the reason it was seized and the type of property it is considered. Having an experienced attorney familiar with the legal process and requirements governing the seizure of property is crucial to fighting for the release of your property.


Personal Property

Your personal property and belongings may be seized as the result of an arrest, search or filing of criminal charges. If the law enforcement agency and prosecutor handling the case determine that the property is not evidence of the offense and will not be used as part of the state's case, the property should be returned to you. This may require a letter and/or phone call to the law enforcement agency holding the property as well as the prosecutor's office.


Evidence

Property seized by the government that is determined to be evidence in a case will continue to be held by the government throughout the duration of the case. Upon the resolution of the case which occurs after the sentencing, dismissal of the charges, or an acquittal at trial, the property may be released and returned to you.


Forfeiture

If your property has been seized for forfeiture, it means that the government believes that the items seized are proceeds of criminal activity. In other words, the government is alleging that your property was obtained using funds that came from unlawful conduct. You do not have to be charged with a crime in order for the government to seize assets it intends to forfeit. The government is required that you be given written notice of its intent to forfeit the assets at issue. Once you receive this "Notice of Pending Forfeiture", it is essential that you file a claim within 30 days to have the property returned. There are very specific procedures and requirements governing this process, which is why you need an experienced attorney to help you fight the state's case against you. For more information concerning the specific procedures, see Arizona statute 13-4301 and its subparts.

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