The police have seized my laptop – what should I do next?
There are a number of reasons as to why the authorities may decide to seize your laptop, computer or mobile phone.
Having your personal electrical items confiscated by the police can be distressing, especially if you feel that equipment may contain incriminating evidence against you.
We’ve penned this guide to give a useful overview of your rights, the process when police seize your computer and the process of retrieving your belongings from the authorities.
Can the police seize computers?
Can the police seize your computer or any other personal electrical items? The simple answer is yes.
Various laws give the authorities the power to seize electrical items and devices as evidence, the main one being the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).
Why would the police seize your computer?
Why might the authorities choose to seize a personal possession such as a smartphone or laptop?
The police may wish to obtain evidence against you from an electrical device, and while the charges may not be against you, your device may provide answers to the case in question.
What happens when the police seize your computer
For the police to obtain electrical items from your home, an officer would need a search warrant to gain access to your property.
During a search of your home or workplace, an officer may decide to take electrical devices as evidence to assist in a case.
Depending on the seriousness of the crime, you may also be put under arrest.
There’s lots of information about what to do if you’re arrested in our guide.
As for your possessions, they will most likely be bagged up and categorised as evidence, before being taken for analysis.
Will I have to supply the police with a password?
If your computer or laptop is password protected, you may be asked to disclose this information to the police.
However, the likelihood is that the experts analysing your computer will be able to break through such security measures, this includes encrypted files.
How long can the police seize your computer for?
How long can the police seize your computer for with or without a charge?
There is no set time limit relating to the seizure of any electrical devices, however, under the PACE act, your possessions must be made available as soon as they are no longer needed.
If the charges against you are dropped, or if the case is resolved, the police will need to return your items.
Under PACE 1984, your property will have to be returned to you when it is no longer needed.
How to get your belongings back from the police
The police force detaining your property will often notify you with details of where and when to pick up your property. You’ll usually have 28-days to collect your items.
If you do not retrieve your items within the allocated time, your laptop or any electrical devices may be destroyed or sold at an auction.
If you feel your case has been wrongly dealt with, you may want to consider speaking to a solicitor.
You can check out our actions against the police section for more help on this matter.
Your rights when arrested – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland
In this section, we’ll answer some of the questions many people have around being arrested, including your rights to a free phone call when arrested.
What legal help am I entitled to if the police seize my laptop
Remember if you do not have a solicitor, the police will provide a duty solicitor to you free of charge; however, it may be worth having a personal solicitor that you know and trust.
If you’ve been previously arrested, require impartial and helpful legal advice or would like to speak to a lawyer, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with a member of the team.
For more information on the arrest process and various offences, visit our crime section.