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Can police take things during a search that don't belong to me?

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Can police take things during a search that don't belong to me?
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Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)

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Can police take things during a search that don't belong to me?
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Reviewed: 
November 2, 2018
Answer

The police may take things that belong to you during their search. What happens to your things later depends on whether your things are being used as evidence.

Returned items

If the item is not illegal and is not being used as evidence in a crime investigation, the police usually return it to you within 3 months if you are the lawful owner. Illegal items include drugs and unlicensed weapons.

Things you won't get back

If the item is being used as evidence in a crime investigation, you will usually not get it back until the matter has been closed. You may never get the item back.

If the police get approval for a civil forfeiture, they don't have to return the item. Civil forfeiture gives police the right to keep your property if it seems “more likely than not” that:

  • the item was paid for with money gained through crime, or
  • the item was used to commit a crime. 

A judge decides if something is more likely than not by using a test called a balance of probabilities.

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