The Aftermath of a Federal Search Warrant – How Do I Get My Stuff Back?

On a normal quiet early morning there’s suddenly a bang at your door, and the next thing you know, there are fifteen federal law enforcement agents searching every nook and cranny of your home. They take computers, documents, and some items that shouldn’t be relevant to an investigation even by the furthest stretch of the imagination. You’re likely stressed, and left wondering what to do next. Thankfully, you’re on the right track. Getting legal assistance as soon as possible is the best thing you can do right now, and we’re here to help. For those of you who haven’t had a similar visit, keep reading – it’s much more common than you might think, and remaining prepared for an investigation will always give an advantage to your defense.

What Happened to My Property?

Agents will probably take  your property back to one of their field offices, where it will be further examined for evidence of a crime. For any digital storage, they’ll likely download everything it contains and search it as well. The evidence collected might be used to get another warrant to further search your property. Agents should, in theory, return the non-relevant property to you in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this duty is very often neglected, and property is held until after the resolution of your case. This could even include some essential items, such as your passport. 

Some property might also, in due course, be subject to civil asset forfeiture, which means you might never get it back. Property that is determined to have been used in a crime, or came into your possession as the result of a crime, might be subject to forfeiture in addition to criminal prosecution of the party in possession. If it is a civil forfeiture you may be able to contest this designation in court by proving that you are an innocent owner of the property. 

If you believe any of your property should be returned to you or is not relevant to the case, you can file a Motion for the Return of Property, but these motions and the return of your items are often very drawn-out processes. Often, it comes down to weighing whether or not it’s worth fighting in court for the items. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to argue for the return of some important pieces of property before the conclusion of your case, but nothing is guaranteed. 

Federal search warrants don’t necessarily mean that you’re guilty of anything. The evidentiary requirements of probable cause for a search warrant are substantially lower than that needed to get a criminal conviction, so taking action quickly to protect your liberty besides just your property is crucial. If you’ve recently been the subject of a search warrant, contact our team today at (305) 374-5544 to schedule your consultation.

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

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