Switch to ADA Accessible Website
Orlando Criminal Lawyer

Do The Police Have To Return Any Property Seized From Me?


The police often use search warrants to seize property that may be relevant to a criminal investigation. So what happens to that property once the case is over? Under Florida law, title to any unclaimed property that has been “lawfully seized” for use as evidence is turned over to law enforcement 60 days after the criminal proceeding concludes. The police can then retain the seized property for itself, sell it, or donate it to another government agency or a charitable organization.

What Qualifies as “Evidence” in a Criminal Case?

Of course, if the police seize property that turns out not to be needed in a criminal investigation–and which is not itself a proceed of criminal activity–the rightful owner has the right to demand its return. This may include property that was seized during a valid search but turned out not to be useful as evidence.

A recent decision from the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, O’Connell v. State, provides a real-world example of what we are talking about. In this case, officers with the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office seized a desktop computer and external hard drive from the appellant. At the time, the appellant was apparently under investigation for some crime related to an alleged child victim.

In the search warrant obtained by the sheriff’s office, the court authorized the officers to seize any evidence that might be contained on the appellant’s computers or phones, such as her Internet search history. The officers apparently believed the appellant had used her online devices to look for a way of treating injuries allegedly sustained by the child victim.

Sometime later, the defendant sought the return of her computer and hard drive. She alleged these devices themselves were not not needed as evidence, as the subject of the search warrant had been the files contained. A judge denied the appellant’s request as “untimely,” finding that since more than 60 days had elapsed since the end of the criminal proceeding, title to the computer and hard drive was now vested with the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office.

On appeal, the Second District said that conclusion was premature. The appellate court said the trial judge’s order did not “conclusively show” that title had vested. More to the point, the court failed to determine whether or not the items in question were actually in the possession of law enforcement or the clerk of the court 60 days after the criminal proceeding against the appellant ended.

The Second District said the appellant was entitled a hearing on the merits of her request, adding that the evidence presented so far did not establish that the computer itself–rather than just the files–were actually “seized as evidence” in the first place.

Contact Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today

A criminal investigation can seriously upend your life–and your property–even if you are never tried or convicted. An experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney can provide you with valuable guidance and representation. Contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.



  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Miami Office

1200 Brickell Avenue, Suite 1410
Miami, FL 33131
Office: 305-999-5100
Fax: 305-999-5111

Orlando Office

250 N Orange Ave, Suite 750
Orlando, FL 32801
Office: 407-705-2626
Fax: 407-705-2625

Email Us

Fields Marked * Are required

DISCLAIMER: Completing and submitting this form or otherwise merely contacting The Baez Law Firm or any individual at the firm will not establish an attorney/client relationship. Our firm cannot represent you until we determine that there would be no conflict of interest and that we are otherwise able to accept representation of your case. Please do not send any information or documents until a formal attorney/client relationship has been established through an interview with an attorney and you have been given authorization in the form of an engagement letter with The Baez Law Firm. Any information or documents sent via this form or otherwise prior to your receipt of an engagement letter will not be treated as confidences, secrets, or protected information of any nature. Submitting information regarding your potential case will not bar The Baez Law Firm from representing or continuing to represent a person or entity whose interest are adverse to your in condition with your case.

protected by reCAPTCHA Privacy - Terms
Please review the highlighted fields. They are required.
DISCLAIMER: This website contains information about The Baez Law Firm that includes testimonial statements from persons who are familiar with the firm's services. The testimonials shown are not necessarily representative of every person's experience with us. Testimonials from every client are not provided. As no two situations or persons are identical, the facts and circumstances of your situation may differ from those for which testimonials are shown. This website also includes information about some of the past results that we have obtained for our clients. Not all results are provided, and the results shown are not necessarily representative of all results obtained by us. No two situation are exactly alike; every person's situation is unique and the outcome for each person depends on the individual facts.

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.
MileMark Media - Practice Growth Solutions

© 2015 - 2024 Baez Law Firm. All rights reserved.
This law firm website and legal marketing are managed by MileMark Media.

Contact Form Tab Contact Form Tab