John Doe uses a gun to kill a criminal in self defense. That gun, the one used, is taken as evidence by law enforcement so it can be investigated and/or used trial or for whatever reasons need be.

In the aftermath, tensions heighten and the state charges Mr. Doe with murder. John Doe now has to go through a trial. Months later the trial is finally here. Trial starts. Gun is shown in trial. Witnesses testify all truths. Both sides plead their case to the jury. Trial ends with jury acquitting John Doe because they believe from the evidence they were shown that his actions were legally justified.

So now at this point..

THE QUESTION: Can John Doe ask to get his gun back now? Or Can the state/or L.E. give John Doe his gun back at this point?

If "No." Then why not?


2 Answers 2


Law Enforcement can return a firearm to its owner so long as the owner is not prohibited from possessing firearms, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g).

A person can demand the return of property seized as evidence, if both:

  1. The property is not needed for evidence in a criminal trial.
  2. The property is not "contraband" (meaning illegal for the claimant to possess).

If Law Enforcement does not agree to return the property then the owner can petition a Court of jurisdiction for an order that it be returned.

  • Can return or must return? Honest question. Can the state really confiscate property simply because it was used as evidence?
    – acpilot
    Nov 23, 2021 at 22:24
  • 2
    @acpilot Yes, the state can seize property if they allege it is material evidence in a criminal investigation or prosecution. (And if you think that's bad, look at civil asset forfeiture!) Can return and must return are two different questions, so I addressed them in that order.
    – feetwet
    Nov 23, 2021 at 22:55
  • Even after the conclusion of all cases concerning the seized evidence? I am familiar with CAF. Do not like.
    – acpilot
    Nov 24, 2021 at 23:13
  • 1
    @acpilot The state should not retain seized property that is not contraband and for which it has no legitimate need. But in practice that doesn't stop them from holding on to it until a court orders them to give it back.
    – feetwet
    Nov 24, 2021 at 23:24

That is going to depend at least in part on whether Doe owns the gun lawfully, had all proper permits, and so on. It will also depend on whether any lesser offense such as carrying a gun improperly, or othe firearms offense can be charged against Doe, and if so whether such charges are in fact brought.

Procedures will vary. Doe may have to formally request return of the gun if he wants it.

Police do not always return items seized as evidence even when the accused is acquitted unless a court so orders.

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