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POLICE SEIZURE OF PROPERTY

Geoffrey Miller Solicitors are specialist Driving Offence Solicitors. Call our team of expert motoring solicitors for some free initial advice.

When arrested and/or subject to a police investigation, you may have property confiscated from you which is then held by the police on your behalf.

When the Police investigate criminal offences, they have wide ranging powers to seize property they believe is relevant to the investigation. This is principally done pursuant to s.19 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE 84).

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General power of seizure etc.

(1) The powers conferred by subsections (2), (3) and (4) below are exercisable by a constable who is lawfully on any premises.

(2) The constable may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing—
(a) that it has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence; and
(b) that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent it being concealed, lost, damaged, altered or destroyed.

(3) The constable may seize anything which is on the premises if he has reasonable grounds for believing—
(a) that it is evidence in relation to an offence which he is investigating or any other offence; and
(b) that it is necessary to seize it in order to prevent the evidence being concealed, lost, altered or destroyed.

In simple terms, if the Officer believes that something is relevant to the investigation then he will no doubt seize it. If you are charged with an offence a decision will then be made as to whether that item becomes a ‘Used’ exhibit or an ‘unused’ exhibit. If it is ‘used’ then it means the Prosecution will rely on it at trial in your case. If ‘unused’ then the Prosecution are not relying on it as evidence in the case.

If the officer thinks that an item of property is relevant to the investigation, then he will seize it.

Getting this property back, either whilst you are in custody or once the proceedings that relate to why the property was confiscated have taken place, can be difficult.

If your property is confiscated it is usually held at the holding/arresting police station until the matter has been dealt with. Once the officer in charge of the case considers your property is no longer needed, an officer should inform you that your property is ready for collection.

There are two type of property that may be taken from you when you are arrested

  1. The property in your possession when arrested (e.g. coins, watch, lighter, wallet) – any property which is not believed to be of evidential value (and is not an illegal item or substance). This should be returned to you when you leave custody.AND
  2. Property you own which is of interest to the investigation (e.g. a computer, a large sum of cash, trainers or kitchen knives). This will be retained until the investigation/process is complete.

Getting your property back

If you have had a Police Seizure of Property (other than money or cash) then there naturally becomes a point when that property is no longer required under PACE 1984. You won’t necessarily be able to recover all your property (e.g. drugs, knives, guns etc) – some items will be forfeited and destroyed.

Although the policy of returning property may vary depending on the police force, there is a general process that the Police will use. This usually involves you being notified by them, often in writing, stating that your property can be collected and where you need to go for it.

However, there are some points that you need to know before getting your property back:-

The property cannot be returned to you until the officer in charge of the case has authorised its release.

The police can keep relevant property until a case has been resolved and in some cases they can keep it after conviction (in case of a hearing relating to the confiscation of any illegal assets, or a possible appeal in some circumstances).

The police will hold your property until all relevant matters have been dealt with. Once the letter of authorisation has been sent to you the general procedure is for them to wait 28 days for you to collect your property or for a response either by telephone or in writing.

If you want to make some enquiries as to whether you can collect your property, you will need to speak to the officer in charge of the case.

If you have been notified to collect your property and fail to do so then after a certain amount of time (often 28 days, but may vary from force to force), the property will be disposed of,
either destroyed or sold at auction.

If the Police will not return your belongings then you may need to contact a Solicitor or a Barrister. They should be able to give you initial advice as to whether or not you can, in law, recover your property and what steps you will need to take. You may need to bring an action under the Police Property Act 1897 to ask the Magistrates’ Court to compel the Police to return your belongings.

If you are not charged

If you are not charged but the police are still investigating the case, property is dealt with in the same was as if you were charged and released, when the officer in charge authorises it.

If you are not charged, but you have a Co-defendant/s and some of your property is needed for their case it will continue to be held until the case is closed and the officer in charge authorises it for release.

After you are convicted/sentenced

After you have been convicted/ sentenced, once the case has been closed with no outstanding issues you should be given all items which were on your person at the station at the court or be told to attend the station to collect your property.

What are the reasons the police can seize my vehicle and what powers do they use?

Under Section 165 Road Traffic Act 1988 there are several powers the police may use to seize vehicles. It depends on the circumstances as to which section the police officer will use. Vehicles can be seized for various reasons:

In the case of careless driving prosecutions, often a first warning is issued initially. This is not only issued against the driver but also the vehicle. This means if person A was driving vehicle A and was issued a warning, then person A drove person B’s vehicle and was caught driving dangerously then vehicle B can be seized. Similarly to if Person B went on to drive Person A’s vehicle dangerously then vehicle A can be seized.

Your insurance company will need to know where your vehicle was taken as they will often need to inspect it. Most garages will charge for recovery and storage, your insurance company may settle this if appropriate.

In serious collisions, the police may need to examine your vehicle and this will delay the release of your vehicle from the garage and in some cases the police may have to retain your vehicle as evidence. In these cases the police will normally pay for any storage charges prior to the vehicle being released back to your custody.

Seizure of vehicles under S165 RTA 1988 only covers driving without insurance/valid licence.

Not Sure What to Do About Police Seizure of Property?

Most people who get in touch with our team of motor offence expert solicitors are uncertain of their options. They are unaware of any legal defences that may be available and find it difficult to believe that it might be possible to defend the drink driving offence charge they face by using loopholes that apply to the rich and famous! We do represent celebrities but we also represent many hardworking motorists like Brian and we want to help you make the right choice about what you do next.

We are always more than happy to chat things through with potential clients Free of Charge. Call us now on Freephone 0800 1389 123 to speak to one of our specialist motoring offence solicitors. It is only once you decide to instruct us that payment will become necessary and we can often arrange installment plans to assist you. Many satisfied clients have thanked us for offering this free consultation service as it has prevented them from following inaccurate non-expert advice which could have led to them accepting a driving ban unnecessarily.

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