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Recovery of stolen gun(s) from police

Discussion in 'Legal' started by mister_murphy, Nov 26, 2008.

  1. mister_murphy

    mister_murphy Well-Known Member

    Hello everyone...

    I am writing to you today to ask for information and any legal precendence that you may know of in North Carolina regarding the recovery of a stolen gun to the legal owner, who is eligable to legally possess it, once it has been recovered by the police. Yes, we have the manufacturer's names, serial numbers, calibers, and a brief description recorded. The gun in question was inherited from our grandparents in the early 1990's, and so there is no receipt or 4473 record. the gun was purchased many years ago and was in the family all our lives until stolen.

    Long story short. My brother has had some guns stolen about 2 months ago and approximatly 3 weeks ago the local police department recovered 1 of the guns during a investigation into another crime. The gun still has the manufacturer's name and the unique serial number in place and has not been altered as I understand it. The asked my brother to identify the gun and he said he could not be 100% for sure because of some scratches on the stock. Though he did say he was 90% sure it was his gun from the appearance. Evidently, the police do not want to go by the serial number for confirmation. Yes, a atf trace was inconclusive, proving more I feel that the gun was purchased before I was even born in the 70's

    The true value in the gun is the heirloom status and also the fact that since it has been in our possession, we may have a legal liability if it is used in a crime. The police officer involved in the case wants to return it to the person who they found in possession of it after it was stolen. That individual has stated that he recently purchased the gun from another private party (no records).

    Short of fighting a battle in court, what other ideas do you have to help with this matter? I am at a loss and my brother and I are looking for a lawyer now. Perhaps you know of a legal firm who has handled these things in the past.

    We all know stolen property may have the appearance changed, etc so the serial number being recorded should be proof enough. What do you all have to say?

    EDIT: No one has been charged with possession of stolen property and they are not pursuing it as far as I know.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2008
  2. Bubba613

    Bubba613 member

    Something sounds funny.
    How did you learn the police had recovered the gun? When it was stolen, did your brother file a report with the serial number and description? The serial number is the identifying item of the gun. To say police don't want to go by that sounds not right in some way.
  3. Sinixstar

    Sinixstar member

    I thought the same thing.
    Somehow when people post stories on here - there always tends to be something that makes you go "hmmmm"

    no offense to the poster - but, something just doesn't add up.
    The Serial Number IS the identifier. saying "that looks like my gun" means nothing.

    I mean, let's swap guns for cars for a minute - and say it was your stolen car, and they had found it and verified the VIN. Are the cops going to question whether or not it's your car because "well - it didn't have those scratches on it before it was stolen... I think that's my car... but it does look a bit different". No, of course not.
  4. mister_murphy

    mister_murphy Well-Known Member

    The police contacted us to identify the gun once it was recovered during investigation into another crime. A police report was filed by my brother In september, with the manufacturer name, description, serial number, and caliber. The police want a receipt as a record showing ownership or for a dealer or the ATF to produce a copy of the 4473 to show the transfer. They say the list of firearms that I have, listing the manufacturer's names, serial number, model, and caliber is not enough to show proof of ownership. They want a receipt or a copy of the 4473 form to prove ownership.

    The gun was purchased before I was even born and was inherited by my brother. The will that list the items we inherited, but just has a very brief description with no serial numbers. The police state they still want either a receipt of the purchase, or a copy of the 4473 showing the transfer from the dealer to the individual.
  5. kurtmax

    kurtmax Well-Known Member

    Get an attorney. You don't need 'proof of purchase' to own a firearm. The cops are just giving you the runaround. Somebody in the dept. probably wants it for themselves or a friend.
  6. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

    Highly unlikely.

    The gun is in their property room, listed by serial number. If the gun wanders OUT of their property room, there has to be a log of who signed it out, or the property clerk is going to be asked some uncomfortable questions. In short, once it is in the property room of the PD, it is very hard to pull some sort of shenanigans with the property.

    (That's not to say that it cannot be attempted, but those attempts usually end up with someone being criminally charged. In short, it's a poor idea, even if you ignore the morality of theft)

    What is not adding up to me is that the OP knew it was recovered, and the cops "don't want to go by the serial number".

    How did they know to contact the victim?

    How did the victim know the gun was recovered, if they were not contacted by the police?

    What possible reason is there for the police to not want to go by the serial number to identify the owner?

    Assuming they actually don't wish to take the S/N as proof of ownership, what proof of ownership would they accept?

    More to this story.

  7. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

    OK, I missed this the first time:
    That's crap, unless they have reason to think the gun was stolen in the first place. I'd send a certified letter to the police demanding return of the property immediately, or you will be retaining legal counsel. That usually causes things to get sorted out. If it doesn't, lawyer up and remember to ask for money for your lawyer fees and trouble as part of the settlement.

  8. Bubba613

    Bubba613 member

    Filing a stolen gun report referencing the make and serial number should be prima facie evidence of ownership. People don't file reports with that detail on the off chance that a gun exactly matching it will turn up.
    Unless someone else is also claiming it, which would make sense.

    More here to the story, I think.

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member

    It was stolen, then the thief apparently sold or traded, or gave it to this other party who was "caught" with the goods.

    Why did the police even bother to call you to tell you they may have YOUR GUN there at the station, if they are then going to deny giving you YOUR GUN back?!?!:confused:

    I agree, a description and SERIAL NUMBER is the identifiable information.
  10. ants

    ants Well-Known Member

    It does us no good to assert obvious truths, guys.

    Welcome to the Forum mister murphy, but as you can see this is a tough crowd that doesn't easily let wool get pulled over the eyes.

    Someone is not telling us the whole story.
  11. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member


    You wouldn't be related to Murphy's Law, would you?:uhoh:
  12. mister_murphy

    mister_murphy Well-Known Member

    Hey guys,

    Just got back a couple of hours ago from the police department again. I agree something is up but dont know for sure what... I did find out the person that was found in possession of it has not been charged yet, and we insisted that he be charged with possession of stolen property. Secondly, I believe the person is also fighting to keep the gun.

    Also, since my first post about it I have contacted an attorney who will handle the case. We go for another meeting monday at the PD to see if they will release it monday after they review the documents and written statements we presented them with today. If the gun is not returned monday we will turn it over to the lawyer. I am just trying to figure out what is going on myself.

    I appreciate your help and I will update you monday when we meet with them again.

    BTW, No, I am not related to the Murphy of Murphy's laws.... :)
  13. the foot

    the foot Well-Known Member

    Good luck mister murphy, it sounds like there is something funny going on down at your local police station.
  14. BADUNAME37

    BADUNAME37 Well-Known Member

    I hope they and you can figure out what the big hassle is about giving back a gun to its rightful owner.

    I hope all goes well without your spending a lot of money (or any money, as far as that goes).
  15. TEDDY

    TEDDY Well-Known Member


    before 1968 there were no atf forms.all you got was a store receipt.some guns did not have a serial no.I have rifles like that.and dont say they cant get a gun or anything else from the evidence room.some time it does not get to the room.I know as it happened to me.and in Mass retired could get a gun for $10 or nothing. :rolleyes::uhoh:
  16. DMF

    DMF Well-Known Member

    Well it's not as simple as you're making it out to be. Just because some has generated a list of items, with serial numbers, is not proof that person is the legal owner of those items.

    I have detailed descriptions of several firearms that I owned at one time, but have since been sold. I could easily produce the same type of list the OP referenced, but that is not proof that I own all those guns. Further, I still have the reciepts, and if a LE agency did an ATF trace the 4473 on those guns would come back to me as the original purchaser, but that still does not prove those guns are legally mine.

    Situations like this are why I get a bill of sale made up for private part sales of valuable property, whether it's guns or other items of significant value.
  17. Coronach

    Coronach Moderator Emeritus

    Right, I agree, but the timing of the whole thing is important. That's why I said "unless they think the gun was stolen in the first place". I probably should have been more clear. If the most recent possessor of the gun is claiming it is his, and that the OP was in fact the person who stole it, that's a more complex situation. However, one would think that the police would need a reason to believe this. This may very well fall under "more to the story", or it could fall under a bureaucratic reluctance to release the property. There's really no way to tell which, at this point.

    Sending the certified letter and/or retaining legal counsel makes it clear that this is not an issue that is going to just go away, so they need to be taking steps to figure out to whom the gun will ultimately be released.

  18. mister_murphy

    mister_murphy Well-Known Member

    I was told this morning by another officer at the PD that they will be returning the gun to my brother sometime next week.

    They asked if it was returned to my brother, if they (the PD) would have access to the gun if they charge the person who they found in possession of it, and need it for evidence. Our position is that is great, as long as the gun is maintained and well kept, and is my brothers property returned after trial, PERIOD.

    My brother has purchased a gun safe now. So that will be an improvement. The gun in question as well as 4 other guns were stolen from my brothers residence by a known person (his ex gf). His ex was charged with some assault charges, but not with the theft...A couple of weeks later, once she was released on bail, she was caught in the act of breaking into is home, charged and sent back to jail, and has been released again on bail awaiting trial.

    Over the next few days and as I dig into things more on how to prove possession, I will pass it along to the members here.

    The best advice I have found so far is:

    1. to have an annually updated list of your firearms with all information noterized by an official notary public.

    2. keep any receipts on any transfers and insist that it is dated, and listed the discription and serial number.

    3. keep photographs of each firearm.

    4. if you are either inheriting or leaving a firearm to a family member in your estate, ensure that it is listed with a complete description and serial number.
  19. birdshot8's

    birdshot8's Well-Known Member

    a property seizure hearing is required to determine ownership of any property recovered by police. alot of property is returned without the hearing (cutting corners). check civil statues or call the justice of the peace with venue for your area.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2008
  20. ants

    ants Well-Known Member

    Ha! There was more to the story...

    Yep, we knew he hadn't told us the whole story!

    The brother accused his ex of taking the guns when she got kicked out. This is basically a divorce-type dispute of my-stuff-versus-your-stuff.

    You characterized this as though it was a home burglary, mister murphy, and the guns were found by the police "during an investigation into another crime". You asked us for advice without giving us the right details.

    You should have told us the ex-girlfriend took his stuff and wouldn't give it back, so he filed a police report.
    No wonder the cops were being so careful in their investigation. The police weren't doing anything wrong.

    I don't respect you for misleading us that way.

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