Legal Updates

Return of Property Procedure

In Philadelphia, property is not returned automatically following the disposition of your case.  A defendant whose possessions were confiscated must petition to get them back. Filing a Petition for Return of Property is both time consuming and difficult.  Here is the basic procedure for getting your property back:

  1. Collect all Relevant Paperwork. The first step in filing a petition for return of property is gathering all relevant paperwork.  To file the petition you will need The Police Property Receipt, Police Photo Number Case Number, and disposition of your case.  You must file a separate petition for every piece of property seized from your person.  This information can be obtained from your lawyer or the Office of the District Attorney.  The District Attorney may balk at providing you this basic information.  Therefore, the best option is to contact your lawyer (private or public defender) to get the necessary documents.
  2. Notarize and File the Petition. The petition is filed in Room 206 of the Criminal Justice Center.  The Motions Clerk will list the petition for a status listing in 478 City Hall within thirty (30) days of the filing of the petition.
  3. Appear in Court With an Attorney.  An attorney will not be appointed for you if you fail to appear in court without a lawyer.  You may represent yourself.  If you fail to appear on your scheduled court date the case will be dismiss and your property will be permanently forfeited.  The mere act of showing up may be enough to win your case.  The District Attorney seizes hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars worth of property every year.  However, if you file the petition and appear in court most judges will order return of your property if you can establish it is not related to overt criminal activity.
  4. Process the Short Certificate.  Once the petition is granted, you must proceed with the paperwork to Police Evidence Unit, Room 715 City Hall.  This is often the most difficult part of the procedure.  The Police Evidence Unit will require proper identification, and may charge you a storage fee for property such as a vehicle.  Often times, the Police Evidence Unit may require days or even weeks to locate your property.  It may be helpful to have an attorney handle your request.