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What law or laws in WA state compensate victims for legally seized items (with a warrant) that are returned damaged?

Walla Walla, WA |

Our son (age 15) had been accused of soliciting / possessing images depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct which justified the warrant. He has since been exonerated because his identity was stolen and IP address was used for this purpose by individuals still unknown. A total of 6 items were taken including my home business computer. 2 of these items still have not been returned. My home business computer (and other devices seized) has experienced significant problems since being returned and I have lost close to one month of work because of it. I have filed a claim with a concise statement to the city in question and am waiting for a reply. Am I legally due compensation and do I need to contact legal counsel if my claim is denied for whatever reason. Thank you.

Also, If I am denied compensation for whatever reason and accept legal counsel because I have a decent case, can I then be additionally compensated through a lawsuit for extreme undue hardship for my family because of the circumstances of what happened? Finally, If and when this individual (s) are brought to justice, can I use this same legal counsel to further this case against those directly involved?

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

I recommend being very friendly with the claim procedure. Trying to sue under those circumstances would be problematical because the governmental personnel did not appear to be negligent in the performance of their duties.

[In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.]

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Posted

...and I certainly was when writing the statement, to whomever may be involved in the decision to compensate me. I am curious though as to how to proceed if 'they' are not very friendly in their decision. Thank you for the feedback.

Posted

I don't practice in Washington, but I believe every State has a statute that allows you to sue the government for certain torts, when they cause damage that arises from acts committed in the course of certain normal activities. This potential liability is similar to the kinds of claims that are made against ordinary people and businesses. For example, if a city employee causes a car accident, the city government can be sued as though it were any normal employer.

Damaging your items may be one of those torts for which a government agency can be sued, based on the idea that if you had left the computers with a repair shop and they were damaged that way, the shop would be liable.

However, suing for the hardship caused by an investigation or prosecution that was later dropped does not necessarily mean the government is liable. The government is generally immune from liability for acts done in their official capacity (like arresting and charging people), unless you can show that it amounted to a false arrest or malicious prosecution, or some other civil rights violation. This is a high standard, and requires more than merely being exonerated later. You would need to show that they had no probable cause to make the arrest and/or charge an offense at the time.

Please note that this is just a general statement based on what you've said here, and you should certainly consult a litigator about the facts of your particular situation.

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