Awhile ago I was the victim of a home invasion burglary in which my 18kt Gold Presidential Rolex with diamond face, bezel, and band (appraised at $23,000 few years back) watch was stolen among alot of other personal possession. Well due to my own detective skills I find out that my watch was sold to a local pawn shop for a mere $2000. Now all of the suspects are locked up in county jail awaiting trial. The P.O.S San Diego detective tells me that the ONLY way that I can get my watch out of the pawn shop is if I pay the pawn shop owner the $2000 in which he paid to purchase the watch. (this law/rule is complete BS and needs to be changed). Well I feel that is crap and I shouldnt have to pay the money. Well after doing some research I found out that paying the pawn shop owner is not the only way to retrieve my personal possession back. According to B&P § 21647(b) a peace office is authorized to seize the stolen property whenever required as a part of a criminal investigation, whether or not a temporary hold has been placed on the possession. So this lazy Ahole cop think that I have all this money a can just pull $2000 out of thin air to pay to get my watch back. Even going to lengths of lying a few times to make it seem as though there is nothing he can do and I just need to pay the money. Then he minimizes the truth saying that he cant seize the watch and give it back to me because he can be sued. Well this is true though I dont expect him to do this I expect the watch to be put into evidence locker until a judge can determine who the rightful owner of the watch is. Which I have no doubt he will grant me possession of the watch as I have all the correct ownership documents/receipts. So my question is how can I get this watch out of the pawnshop without having to pay this money, being that the POS detective doesnt seem to want to do his civic duty as an officer and help the victim of a vicious crime out. Would it do any good to hire a lawyer? I have already gone to the victims assesment unit and they say that they cant do anything. Went to the DAs office and talked with the DAs assistant, she says she cant do anything and that I need to speak with the detective in charge of the case. Well guess what that what I have been doing and have gotten NOWHERE. Please help.
2 Answers from Attorneys
Pay the 2000 get your watch, and see if your insurance company will cover the 2000. I bet they would figure out a way to pay a 2000 dollar claim instead of a $ 23000 claim. If you don't have insurance to insure that type of property, that one is on you...
Change the law.... but the pawn shop is a bona ride purchaser as well. Someone will end up losing $2000. It may be unfortunate but the police have discretion in seizing property and you can't legally force them to make a discretionary decision.
Get your watch back before the pawn shop sells it to someone else
You can also sue the shop to reclaim your watch. You can seek an order forbidding the shop to sell the watch until the case has been finally decided. Before you sue, though, you should formally demand its return in writing. Given how valuable the watch is, you may want to have a lawyer make the demand for you.
I believe the detective is mistaken about the shop's legal rights, though I might see things differently if I had more information. I also don't see why he would worry about being sued. Police officers face that risk routinely in their jobs, and their departments routinely defend them when it happens.
A thief is not the legal owner of items he steals, and he cannot convey legal title to stolen items by selling them to someone else. That's true even if the buyer has no reason to believe the item was stolen.
But there is an important exception to this general rule. A third party who innocently buys a stolen item from a bona fide dealer in such goods can become the legitimate owner, so if the pawn shop sells the watch to someone who doesn't know it was stolen, the buyer will have good title to it. But unless this pawn shop bought the watch from a legitimate dealer (or it was sold by such a dealer sometime before the pawn shop bought it), the shop itself does not have good title. It should be very reluctant to sell anything that it knows was stolen unless it can prove that a bona fide dealer sold it after the theft.
The detective also has little reason to fear being sued if