Under what circumstances can property be taken from me?

The NYPD can take property from you for the following reasons:

  1. Contraband – Property that is illegal to own can be taken and either held as evidence or destroyed if no longer needed by the District Attorney’s Office.
  2. Evidence / Investigatory – This is the main reason that property is taken from a person at the time of arrest. When property is taken as evidence of the commission of a crime the District Attorney will often hold the property until the case is over. In certain situations, the ADA will hold the property for a period of time to investigate whether it constitutes evidence of a crime and, if not, may agree to release the property back to you. To obtain property that has been held as evidence you must have proper identification, a property voucher, and a release by the District Attorney’s Office.
  3. Forfeiture – The NYPD can seize property if it can show that the property constitutes the proceeds or instrumentality of a crime. If this is the basis for seizure, they must commence a separate proceeding in Civil Court. The burden of proof at this hearing (referred to as an “OATH” hearing) is a preponderance of the evidence and in reality the NYPD and NYC’s Corporation Council are granted a significant amount of leeway in seizing property (basic rules of evidence do not apply). Even if you win your criminal case, it does not mean that you will prevail at a forfeiture hearing.
  4. Safekeeping – Certain property is taken from you at the time of arrest and may have nothing to do with the commission of a crime nor constitute potential evidence against you. This property can be returned to you by simply showing up with a copy of your invoice and proper identification. If you are incarcerated, a friend or family member can be authorized to obtain this property with identification and proper authorization by you.
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Douglas Schneider
Attorney at Law
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