State Codes and Statutes

State Codes and Statutes

Statutes > North-carolina > Chapter_15 > GS_15-11_1

§ 15‑11.1.  Seizure,custody and disposition of articles; exceptions.

(a)        If a law‑enforcementofficer seizes property pursuant to lawful authority, he shall safely keep theproperty under the direction of the court or magistrate as long as necessary toassure that the property will be produced at and may be used as evidence in anytrial. Upon application by the lawful owner or a person, firm or corporationentitled to possession or upon his own determination, the district attorney mayrelease any property seized pursuant to his lawful authority if he determinesthat such property is no longer useful or necessary as evidence in a criminaltrial and he is presented with satisfactory evidence of ownership. If thedistrict attorney refuses to release such property, the lawful owner or aperson, firm or corporation entitled to possession may make application to thecourt for return of the property. The court, after notice to all parties,including the defendant, and after hearing, may in its discretion order any orall of the property returned to the lawful owner or a person, firm orcorporation entitled to possession. The court may enter such order as may benecessary to assure that the evidence will be available for use as evidence atthe time of trial, and will otherwise protect the rights of all parties.Notwithstanding any other provision of law, photographs or other identificationor analyses made of the property may be introduced at the time of the trialprovided that the court determines that the introduction of such substituteevidence is not likely to substantially prejudice the rights of the defendantin the criminal trial.

(b)        In the case ofunknown or unapprehended defendants or of defendants willfully absent from thejurisdiction, the court shall determine whether an attorney should be appointedas guardian ad litem to represent and protect the interest of such unknown orabsent defendants. Appointment shall be in accordance with rules adopted by theOffice of Indigent Defense Services. The judicial findings concerningidentification or value that are made at such hearing whereby property isreturned to the lawful owner or a person, firm, or corporation entitled topossession, may be admissible into evidence at the trial. After final judgmentall property lawfully seized by or otherwise coming into the possession of law‑enforcementauthorities shall be disposed of as the court or magistrate in its discretionorders, and may be forfeited and either sold or destroyed in accordance withdue process of law.

(b1)      Notwithstandingsubsections (a) and (b) of this section or any other provision of law, if theproperty seized is a firearm and the district attorney determines the firearmis no longer necessary or useful as evidence in a criminal trial, the districtattorney, after notice to all parties known or believed by the districtattorney to have an ownership or a possessory interest in the firearm,including the defendant, shall apply to the court for an order of dispositionof the firearm. The judge, after hearing, may order the disposition of thefirearm in one of the following ways:

(1)        By ordering thefirearm returned to its rightful owner, when the rightful owner is someoneother than the defendant and upon findings by the court (i) that the person,firm, or corporation determined by the court to be the rightful owner isentitled to possession of the firearm and (ii) that the person, firm, orcorporation determined by the court to be the rightful owner of the firearm wasunlawfully deprived of the same or had no knowledge or reasonable belief of thedefendant's intention to use the firearm unlawfully.

(2)        By ordering thefirearm returned to the defendant, but only if the defendant is not convictedof any criminal offense in connection with the possession or use of thefirearm, the defendant is the rightful owner of the firearm, and the defendantis not otherwise ineligible to possess such firearm.

(3)        By ordering thefirearm turned over to be destroyed by the sheriff of the county in which thefirearm was seized or by his duly authorized agent. The sheriff shall maintaina record of the destruction of the firearm.

(4)        By ordering thefirearm turned over to a law enforcement agency in the county of trial for (i)the official use of the agency or (ii) sale, trade, or exchange by the agencyto a federally licensed firearm dealer in accordance with all applicable Stateand federal firearm laws. The court may order a disposition of the firearmpursuant to this subdivision only upon the written request of the head or chiefof the law enforcement agency and only if the firearm has a legible, uniqueidentification number. If the law enforcement agency sells the firearm, thenthe proceeds of the sale shall be remitted to the appropriate county financeofficer as provided by G.S. 115C‑452 to be used to maintain free publicschools. The receiving law enforcement agency shall maintain a record andinventory of all firearms received pursuant to this subdivision.

This subsection (b1) is notapplicable to seizures pursuant to G.S. 113‑137 of firearms used only inconnection with a violation of Article 22 of Chapter 113 of the GeneralStatutes or any local wildlife hunting ordinance.

(c)        Any property, theforfeiture and disposition of which is specified in any general or special law,shall be disposed of in accordance therewith. (1977, c. 613; 1979, c. 593; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 16,s. 1; 2000‑144, s. 27; 2005‑287, s. 1.)