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BeornZ

Money found by police in purchase

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I have a client that made a purchase online.  During shipping  the police aparrently intercepted the item and discovered a large amount of cash inside of the item and siezed it.

 

The poolice are holding the cash and the item that was purchased as evidence, apparently believing to be drug related.

 

Does anyone know of authority on the clients rights to the cash?

 

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I have a client that made a purchase online.

 

What sort of client (i.e., what's your profession)?

 

 

 

Does anyone know of authority on the clients rights to the cash?

 

I don't really understand the question.  Did your client purchase the item believing there would be a large amount of cash inside it?  If not, why would you think he'd have any rights to it?

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Thanks for replying.

 

What sort of client (i.e., what's your profession)?

 

I am a pretty new attorney, primarily family law.

 

I don't really understand the question.  Did your client purchase the item believing there would be a large amount of cash inside it?  If not, why would you think he'd have any rights to it?

 

He did not know there was going to be cash in it.  He does want the item returned.  I am not sure what his rights are as to the money, that is why I am asking about it.

 

I would make the analogy to buying a painting and discovering that it was far more valuable than the buyer or seller realized. The painting would still belong to the buyer I would think.

 

I am looking for any authority on the topic.

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I would make the analogy to buying a painting and discovering that it was far more valuable than the buyer or seller realized. The painting would still belong to the buyer I would think.

 

But in that case, the item purchased itself was simply more valuable than the parties knew. There is no question that the item was sold, the only problem is that they did not know the worth of it. Suppose, though, that a buyer orders Product X from a seller and the seller sends both Product X and Product Y by mistake (but not hidden inside Product X; it's simply shipped in the same box). Clearly the buyer doesn't have a claim to Product Y because that was not part of the deal. So, the issue will depend on exactly how the cash was “hidden” in the object and what state’s law applies. Would the cash be considered part of the object purchased, it which case it would likely belong to the buyer, or would it be considered something separate, like Product Y? The details matter on this, I think, and it may be in some circumstances that there is not a clear answer to the legal outcome. 

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You don't say why the police would've intercepted an item being shipped to your client, and it's unclear why it'd occur to you or your client that they should be ruminating on the topic of anything other than, at best, non-delivery of the item purchased ... and presuming it was a purchase from an individual or company who cannot send another (not that I'd think it necessarily advisable to do business with this person again). 

 

What I find baffling is the notion that anyone would be ruminating about whether (s)he has a claim to the cash seized by the police along with the product.  Given the info provided here, the very first thing that to occur to me would be to tell my client that it wouldn't be the most terrible idea ever to confer with a criminal attorney. 

"I am looking for any authority on the topic."

Even had you mentioned what jurisdictions are involved, it'd seem to me that you've the skills and access to do the legal research on the topic.  The boards are essentially intended for laypeople to seek general info; while that doesn't mean attorneys aren't free to ask on a community message board whatever they like anyway, or for feedback...

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In the Product X versus Product Y analogy, though, the police would in not be entitled to it, I would think. It would either belong to the buyer or the seller.

 

Thoughts?

 

If Product Y turned out to be illegal to possess, ship, etc (like an illegal drug) or was evidence of some crime, certainly the police would be entitled to seize it. Whether it was hidden or not is not the sole factor in that. The fact that cash was hidden may be one factor suggesting criminal activity, but more would be needed to support a good prosecution on a criminal offense. So, I'm guessing there is more to this than simply the fact that the cash was hidden. Indeed, why did the police look at the shipment in the first place unless there was suspected criminal activity taking place? The police had to have something else indicating criminal activity might have been taking place.

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Indeed, why did the police look at the shipment in the first place unless there was suspected criminal activity taking place?

We are told that a police dog "hit" on the package durring a sweep of the shipping facility.

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We are told that a police dog "hit" on the package durring a sweep of the shipping facility.

 

Well, that explains why the police believe the money may be connected with drug activity. Given that’s the case, it might not be wise for him to be making a lot of noise about being entitled to that cash for now. 

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"We are told that a police dog "hit" on the package durring a sweep of the shipping facility."

Oops.  It may well be that the product or cash (or packing materials) came into contact with questionable substances (which does not necessarily mean the sender or intended recipient of property or cash did something wrong, but ...).

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My take on this would be keep in contact with the police and retrieve any record that they are keeping the clients property in possession.   After all it is not illegal to send money through the mail even if it is "hidden" in something within the package.   The police most likely would have a set time limit in which to either file charges and make a claim that something illegal has taken place or return the item with the money in it to the intended recipient of the package.  I'd say the focus should be on getting some kind of 'declaration' of the exact amount etc that the police are in possession of and how long they have to either file charges or return the package to the intended recipient.  

 

My question for the other respondents would be lets say in the case of a historical researcher and/or antique dealer doing research finds evidence that something of value was hidden in a certain antique object.   The researcher (client) tracks down the item over a period of years and finds it listed on Ebay.   If the item itself is not contraband.. would the police have reason to keep the item simply because there was something else of value that is not contraband (i.e money) hidden inside the object?   The police either need to file charges and make a claim that something illegal took place or return the property to the intended recipient.   I would guess that there would be some type of court order needed to return property if no charges are filed within a specified time. 

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If the item itself is not contraband.. would the police have reason to keep the item simply because there was something else of value that is not contraband (i.e money) hidden inside the object?

 

Merely being hidden inside another object is not enough for the government to seize it. For the governement to seize it, one of five conditions would be needed that I can think of off the top of my head: (1) the item is illegal to possess, (2) the government has probable cause to believe the item may be evidence of a crime, (3) the government has lien on the property it is seizing, (4) the property was used in a crime or was proceeds of a crime and thus subject to a civil forfeiture statute, or (5) the item belongs to the government in the first place. 

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I would think California civil code sec. 2080-2080.10 might apply here. If the package arrived with an extra benefit (the cash) the buyer had no reason to expect would be included in or with the item, he may reason that is was included by mistake, misplaced or even lost by the shipper. Since your client has a pretty good idea of the rightful owner, the client may want to return the property.

 

Might want to ask yourself, if the cash was not accidentally lost or misplaced by the shipper, why else would it be included and/or hidden in the item your client purchased? And why would a dog "hit" on the package. Evidence points to the cash possibly being related to criminal activity. Seems to me your client would want to be disavowing himself of any knowledge of or rights to the cash.  
 

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