Criminal Defense

What Happens To Your Possessions When You Go To Jail or Prison?

July 20, 2023 by Madison Ferguson in Criminal Defense  Special Report  
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Los Angeles Central Evidence Warehouse

It is crucial to grasp the fate of your belongings when apprehended. Understanding the potential consequences for your property and belongings in the event of your arrest is equally essential. It would be best to handle these matters independently before arrest and ensure everything is arranged correctly. However, due to unexpected arrests, time constraints often prevent people from carrying out this task.

Where Do My Personal Belongings Go?

When you are arrested, the police will search you and retain all of the belongings that you have on your person. The state might seize assets that are used as evidence or that they believe are connected to a crime. The reasons for taking your property may include safekeeping, forfeiture, arrest evidence, contraband, or investigatory evidence. It’s important to note that the process for getting your property back varies by county. In some cases, you can retrieve your property by presenting the property invoice and two forms of ID to the property clerk’s office or the precinct where you were arrested. If your property was taken for safekeeping, it will be held for a specific period of time, typically 120 days, and if not retrieved within that time, you may lose your right to it.

LA County Property Room

Los Angeles County Property Room

Where Does My Cash Go?

The status of your bank account depends on the charges you have been found guilty of. In most cases, your funds will remain in your account even if you are in jail. However, if the government suspects you have gained financial benefits from a crime, they can freeze all your assets, regardless of whether you have been charged or convicted. Additionally, banks may freeze your account for safety reasons if there is no activity for a few months, but you can regain access to your money by contacting the bank.

Who Will Look After My Business If I’m in Prison?

Many lawyers recommend preparing your belongings and finances before going to jail to make the situation more manageable. It becomes even more challenging if you cannot afford bail, but consulting with your lawyer before being proven guilty can help address some of these issues.

A defense lawyer can also request a specific date for when you should go to jail, allowing you a designated period to handle your tasks. Moreover, having someone trustworthy to care for your affairs while incarcerated is crucial, often involving sharing business assets with a partner or close friend.

How to Handle Your Finances While in Prison

Once incarcerated, you will lose control over your financial matters. You can appoint someone else to take care of your financial responsibilities.

One option is granting legal power to a family member or friend, allowing them to perform tasks on your behalf while maintaining limited control.

Another option is temporarily lending assets to a trusted individual, but choosing someone reliable is crucial as they are not obligated to return the assets.

Transferring assets to a trust and granting power of attorney to a financial professional is another option, especially for those with significant assets.

Lastly, finding a dependable person to manage finances and handle bill payments during imprisonment is crucial, and the most affordable option should be chosen based on financial circumstances.

What Happens to Someone’s House When They Go to Prison?

When someone goes to prison, they may not necessarily lose their house. They can leave the house to a family member, relative, or friend. Alternatively, the arresting agency may take custody of the house for safekeeping until the person is released, depending on the circumstances and the person’s ability to pay housing bills while in prison.

However, allowing the prison to keep the house may not be the best option, as it could lead to debt upon release. Suppose the person terminates the lease payments and pays the agreed penalties. In that case, they will be homeless upon release and must find alternative housing or stay with family or friends before reintegrating into society. It is advisable to sort out house bills before going to prison, even while incarcerated.

What Happens If Somebody Dies While They’re in Prison?

If someone dies while in prison, they remain the property owner until their death, including assets, the house, and money, until their death. The prison may grant a will if the person’s health is deteriorating. If the prisoner dies without a will and without a spouse or children, the government may pass the property to their closest living relative. Each state has its rules and protocols for distributing assets in cases of intestacy, and the prison will notify the designated contact or next of kin.

If the person who dies without a will is married and has a family, the money will be distributed among the children, descendants, and spouse based on state law, with the spouse receiving a preferential amount. The property is considered escheat and becomes the state’s if no heirs exist. The property will be distributed to the closest living relative if there is no designated spouse, children, or descendants. In cases where the person who dies without a will was in a common-law marriage, the surviving spouse may be able to apply for assets if they lived with the deceased for a certain period.

Can I Access My Funds While in Prison?

LA County Evidence Room

Regrettably, you cannot access your usual bank accounts in prison. Yet, there’s a choice. You can use a prison account or prison trust established by the state to buy items from authorized catalogs. You can choose your most trusted person on the outide to do this. Rules for these accounts differ by state or facility, so you should ask your prison for specific rules.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
Seppi had my case reduced to just an infraction, and thanks to him I was able to keep my job. Jorge was extremely helpful too, the reason I went with this law firm. Overall pleased.

How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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