The NYPD will now be required to streamline its process for returning personal property as a result of a recent lawsuit. Victor Encarnacion sued the city of New York in 2016, claiming that the police department kept his phone and other items far longer than necessary. The February 2018 settlement of his case requires that the NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney’s office will have to return New Yorkers’ property more efficiently.
Encarnacion was arrested in November 2014, at which time NYPD took his phone and other items, which were to serve as evidence in his trial. According to the lawsuit Encarnacion filed in 2016, the criminal case was dismissed against him, and it took nearly a year before NYPD returned his cellphone to him.
The settlement forces the NYPD and prosecutors to follow the already-existing set of laws governing the procedures for returning evidence to accused criminals. These rules were not being adequately followed. Prior to this settlement, even in cases where the criminal charges were dismissed by the courts, the NYPD would hold onto property seized as evidence, and prevent the individuals from retrieving their property.
The police department will now be required to follow the statutes on the books. These will result in a much faster return of property to the individual owners.
What Will This Mean for Prisoners and Alleged Criminals?
From now on, the police department will issue vouchers for any property it seizes. When picking up that property, individuals will be required to show only one form of ID, instead of the two that had been required in the past. The DA’s office will make it easier for people to ask for their property back, and prosecutors will be trained to respond to these requests within 15 days.
The settlement also awarded $10,000 to Victor Encarnacion, Kaleb Hagos, and Kenneth Clavasquin, the other two plaintiffs in his case.
What Were the Problems with the Old System?
In the past, NYPD has only rarely given out vouchers for seized property. Even when they have given out vouchers, they are bound by statute not to release items until given a release from the District Attorney’s office. Prosecutors only rarely responded to requests to release seized items—even after cases were closed.
In some cases the NYPD would keep someone’s ID as evidence, forcing them to authorize someone else to go in, simply to get their ID back. The problem was made worse because the police department would not turn over the belongings without a release from the DA’s office, and since the DA’s office would only give releases occasionally, individuals had a hard time getting through the bureaucracy. The system for property returns has been slow and unresponsive for a long time, and now it’s being fixed.
We hope that this settlement will mean the accused are treated with more respect and allowed to get their property back in a much more reasonable manner in the future.
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