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The Police Seized Your Laptop – What Should You 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 from when the police seized your laptop and how long the police can seize your computer for.
Have the Police Seized Your Laptop?
The simple answer is yes, regulations mean that, when there is just reason to do so, the police are within their right to seize your computer, laptop or other electrical items.
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). Meaning that if the police have a just cause to do so, they can take your devices.
Why Would The Police Seize Your Computer Or Laptop?
The authorities choose to seize a personal possession such as a smartphone or laptop to obtain evidence against you from an electrical device. And while the charges may not be against you, your devices may provide answers to the case in question.
The main crimes that would determine your devices being confiscated include illegal pornography, as well as fraud and drugs offences. If you are being investigated for one of these cases, it could very well be the case that the police can seize your electrical possessions, such as your computer, laptop or mobile phone.
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 and depending on the seriousness of the crime, you may also be put under arrest. If you believe you have been the victim of a wrongful arrest (without just cause), then you can appeal for legal action.
As for your electrical possessions that have been seized, 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 Police Keep your Laptop for Evidence?
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 deemed necessary in the case. Or, 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, or if you believe you’ve been treated unfairly by the police, then you may want to consider speaking to a solicitor.
What Are Your Rights When Arrested In England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland?
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.