If a cop lost my valuable knife during a traffic stop, what can I do?

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If a cop lost my valuable knife during a traffic stop, what can I do?

I was pulled over one evening for driving without tail lights. Before the officer searched me I told him I had a knife in my pocket. He removed the knife from my pocket and never returned it to me. I believe he set the knife on the back of my truck. It took him over an hour to find my information in the system, and then he wrote me a ticket for driving without tail lights, in spite of the fact that I was using a set of magnetic tail lights which I had forgotten to turn on. I turned them on in front of him so he could see that they were working. He then released me without actually handing me back the knife and I drove home. This knife is a very valuable possession of mine, both monetarily and personally. Is there any way I could have him reimburse me for the cost of the knife?

Asked on February 5, 2017 under General Practice, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In theory, you could sue him and the police department for having negligently or carelessly lost your property; it is better to name both him and the department to be thorough, though the officer himself will likely have substantial protection from lawsuits coming out of his official business, as long as he was not acting in an intentionally wrongful manner. In practice, it's not clear this would be worthwhile:
1) There are extra paperwork requirements and rules about suing the police (or any government agency) and shorter deadlines to file--therefore either you'll have to hire an attorney, whose cost you cannot be reimbursed for, to help you, or else navigate a more-complex suit yourself.
2) You can potentially recover the monetary value of the knife, assuming you can prove a) that the officer caused its loss and b) its current fair-market value, but not the personal value...so this would only make sense if the monetary value alone is worth going through 1), above.


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