What is a Petition for Return of Property?
A petition for return of property is a legal method to recover item seized by police during arrest. In Philadelphia, every year thousands of individuals are arrested and their items seized by law enforcement. These items are placed on a property receipt and held by the government pending the outcome of the criminal proceeding. The government often seizes cash, firearms, drugs, valuable belongings, watches and an array of personal items. Many defendants whose items are seized never see their items again. In fact, in our experience most criminal defendants assume that their belongings have simply been lost to the government. This is unsurprising as the City of Philadelphia regularly loses many personal items. Nevertheless, it is important to understand there is a legal procedure in place for getting your property back. It may be exceptionally difficult to retrieve a confiscated firearm, the government may resist in returning weapons or anything that may be perceived as contraband
Petition for Return of Property
In Pennsylvania, an individual whose items are seized by police may file a petition for return of property. Rule 234 Pa. Code. § 588 governs return of the Property. Under the rule, the government must return the property if a motion is successfully resolved before a judge in the judicial district where the property was received. Therefore, if a defendant was arrested in Philadelphia, PA she would file the petition in the Philadelphia Municipal Court if she were charged with a misdemeanor offense. If the defendant were charged with a more serious felony offense the petition would be filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
Forfeiture Proceedings and Petition for Return of Property
The government will often attempt to get a head start on seizing your items, particularly if cash is involved. Many criminal defendants who are incarcerated received notice from the government that a forfeiture proceeding is being initiated. Such a proceeding is the government’s attempt to permanently seize your Property. If a judge grants the forfeiture it may be impossible to ever retrieve your property. Therefore, if a forfeiture proceeding is initiated against you it is important to challenge the proceeding. The government will often bring the forfeiture proceeding while your case is pending, whereas petition for return of property must be filed within thirty (30) days of disposition of the criminal case. Therefore, the government often has a head start in seizing your personal items.
Filing the Petition for Return of Property
The petition for return of Property is filed with the Clerk of Courts in the jurisdiction where the items were seized. For example if the items were seized in Philadelphia, the motion would be filed with the Philadelphia Clerk of Courts. The city of Philadelphia has a boilerplate form available for pro se defendants filing a petition for return of property. Fill out the form and submit to the Clerk of Courts. The court clerk will often provide the defendant and a date and time for the court hearing before a judge. At the court hearing, the defendant must convince a judge to grant the motion to return the Property. The main issue for consideration is usually whether the items are criminal contraband and/or serve a criminal purpose. For example, if a defendant is charged with selling drugs he will not be able to recover the contraband (drugs), and perhaps will be unable to recover cash. At such a hearing the Defendant would likely have to show the cash seized has no relation to the purported drug sales. On the other hand, if a defendant is charged with simple assault, beats the case and file a petition for return of cash seized subject to his arrest, his odds of success are greater since the property bears no relationship to the alleged crime.
Philadelphia Return of Property Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime, and are attempting to secure return of personal items seized by the government, contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos for elite criminal representation. We can assist you with resolving your open case, challenge any forfeiture proceedings, and file petition for return of personal items that rightfully belong to you. Mark Copoulos is a seasoned trial lawyer with more than ten (10) years experience litigating civil and criminal actions in the Philadelphia Municipal Court and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. Call our office at 267-535-9776 or email us at Mark@Copouloslaw.com to obtain an assessment of your civil or criminal matter. Copoulos has garnered hundreds of positive reviews on social platforms like Google Places, Yelp, and Avvo. More importantly, he points with pride to the results he has obtained for his clients since 2011.