Can Your Personal Computer be Seized?

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From Dateline, to Netflix documentaries, to CSI, television has certainly shown us the role computers play in criminal investigations. So, can your personal computer be seized? It can. Let us discuss how it can be seized and what happens to the computer after seizure. 

If the police are investigating you for any crime where evidence may exist on your computer, they may seize your computer. The range of crimes in which evidence may exist on your computer, run the gamut, but may include anything from fraud, to child pornography, to murder. A warrant is generally required for the seizure of your computer. This means that the police must present a statement to a judge, setting forth probable cause for the seizing of your property. They may, however, be able to seize your computer absent a warrant, if they believe you will do something to destroy the evidence before they have the chance to obtain a warrant.

Beyond investigation of a crime, your computer can also be seized as part of a civil asset forfeiture. This can occur when the police believe you used proceeds from a crime to purchase the computer. Civil asset forfeiture is most prominently associated with the sale of drugs, but can also occur when the computer is believed to have been purchased with money obtained from the sale of stolen goods, or money obtained via a scam, especially an Internet or Personal information phishing scam.

You may or may not get your seized computer back. If a prosecutor reviews the evidence on your computer, and determines that there has been no crime committed, he or she may return your computer. In many cases, however, the computer is either destroyed or stored for future investigation.

Having your computer seized can be associated with serious criminal allegations. If this happens to you, you should immediately consult with a criminal defense attorney about how to best defend yourself and retrieve your seized property. Our experienced team of local attorneys is here to answer your questions. We know local experience matters! For more information, please reach out to our office. You may call, chat, or contact us at any time. Put our team to work for you!