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HOW TO RETURN PROPERTY SEIZED DURING A SEARCH?

You can expect or not expect people to come to your office or apartment with the intention of conducting a search, but you should always understand that law enforcement officers appear for the sole purpose of finding and removing anything that may even remotely resemble a thing or document involved. to the criminal offense, and then in the course of the case to understand whether it was necessary to remove it or not. Therefore, be prepared that law enforcement officers will “rake” all the property they want during the search.

It is a good idea to carefully read the decision of the investigating judge on the search, because this is your key to success. The list of property that the investigating judge allowed to be found and seized should be read in detail and meticulously. That is, such a list contains things and documents that relate to a specific criminal offense and are relevant to the investigation of the crime. For example, seals, stamps, various documents, invoices, bills, etc. If the decision of the investigating judge does not give permission for the search and seizure of certain items or documents, but they are still seized by the investigator or prosecutor – this property is called “temporarily seized property”.

Thus, all the property that law enforcement officers can seize in your office, apartment or other premises is divided into two categories:

  1. Property, which is determined in the decision of the investigating judge, and permission for search and seizure is granted. Law enforcement officers are not obliged to seize such property in the future, although they are not obliged to return it to you either.
  2. Property that is NOT defined in the decision of the investigating judge, and therefore permission for its search and seizure is NOT granted. Such property is called “temporarily confiscated property”, and law enforcement officers are obliged to either seize or return it to you.

However, investigating judges often note in the search warrant vague wording of the list of property that may be seized.

For example, the decision may state that permission has been granted to seize computer equipment that contains information about a criminal offense, but the investigator seizes all computer equipment that is only contained in your office, for example. Such computer equipment is also considered to be temporarily seized and must be returned if the seized property has not been seized within a certain period of time, which I will describe below.

How should a business behave during a search?

The correct behavior after a search depends on your awareness of possible scenarios.

Thus, after a search, law enforcement officers have two options for dealing with temporarily seized property: to apply to the investigating judge with a request to seize the property or return it to you. It is logical that the investigator / prosecutor does not seize the property in order to return it to you immediately, so you should expect the seizure of the seized property. From the day of the search, the deadlines that are important to follow begin to expire: law enforcement officers have 48 hours after the seizure of property not specified in the court order to apply to the investigating judge with a question about the seizure of property.

Situation 1

If law enforcement officers do not apply to the court for the seizure of the property within 48 hours or do apply, but the investigating judge refuses to seize the property, the property must be returned immediately to the person from whom it was seized.

Of course, the manipulation of law enforcement officers is already a well-established practice, so it is useless to hope that your property will be returned to you after 48 hours or after the investigating judge refuses to seize your property.

In this case, it is appropriate to prepare a petition (request) for the return of the temporarily seized property to the investigator / prosecutor. If such a method does not work for a law enforcement officer, the next step is to complain to the investigating judge about the inaction of the investigator / prosecutor, which is not to return the temporarily seized property.

If the investigator / prosecutor does not respond to such methods at all and continues to illegally hold your property, a disciplinary complaint against the prosecutor for a disciplinary misconduct that fails to perform or improperly perform his or her duties may be an effective remedy.

Situation 2

If law enforcement officers still went to court within 48 hours, and the investigating judge seized the temporarily seized property, then I offer you two ways to return the property:

1) apply to the appellate court with an appeal against the decision of the investigating judge to seize the temporarily seized property;
2) apply to the investigating judge with a request to lift the seizure of property.

Method : 

When going to court with an appeal, it is important to adhere to deadlines, which depend on whether you were present at the hearing on the seizure of property.

If you were present at the court hearing, you will be able to appeal the seizure of property no later than 5 days after the announcement of the court decision.

Usually, property owners are not summoned to participate in the consideration of the seizure of property, so in this case you can appeal the seizure no later than 5 days after receiving a copy of the court decision on the seizure.

Method : 

Not all owners of temporarily confiscated property have to apply to the court with a request to lift the seizure, but only those who were not present during the consideration of the law enforcement request to impose it.

As already mentioned, it is a typical situation that property owners are not summoned to court and their property is seized without their participation, so this way will balance your rights.

The main advantage of this method is the lack of time to submit such an application. That is, you can use it when you missed the deadline for appeal.

Ukraine will be searched according to the new rules

Satisfying your appeal or requesting the lifting of the arrest will oblige law enforcement to return the seized property. As described above, the obligation to return property does not always affect law enforcement effectively, so how to act in this case – see Scenario 1.

In general, there is a disappointing trend that you will have to fight for your own property: it is confiscated by law enforcement officers, although they have not been given permission to do so, and then you still need to make efforts to return it.

However, I hope that this article has clarified to you the possible ways to return the property seized during the search.

Despite this, the work of a lawyer as a specialist will never be superfluous, but will also save you from wrong steps on the way to returning your property and saving precious time.

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