2018 Georgia Code
Title 17 - Criminal Procedure
Chapter 5 - Searches and Seizures
Article 3 - Disposition of Property Seized
§ 17-5-50. Property unlawfully obtained; rights of owner; hearing; admissibility of photographs in lieu of original property; representation of unknown or absent defendants; statements made by defendant or agent at trial
(a) The clerk or person having charge of the property section for any police department, sheriff's office, or other law enforcement agency in this state shall enter in a suitable book a description of every article of property alleged to be stolen, embezzled, or otherwise unlawfully obtained and brought into the office or taken from the person of a prisoner and shall attach a number to each article and make a corresponding entry thereof.
(1) Any person claiming ownership of such allegedly stolen, embezzled, or otherwise unlawfully obtained property may make application to the law enforcement agency for the return of such property. Upon such an application being filed, the clerk or person in charge of the property section shall serve upon the person from whom custody of the property was taken a copy of such application. Such person from whom custody of the property was taken shall have a reasonable opportunity to claim ownership of such property and to request a hearing on forms provided by the person in charge of the property section.
(2) If the person from whom custody of the property was taken fails to assert a claim to such property, upon any applicant furnishing satisfactory proof of ownership of such property and presentation of proper personal identification, the person in charge of the property section may deliver such property to the applicant. The person to whom property is delivered shall sign, under penalty of false swearing, a declaration of ownership, which shall be retained by the person in charge of the property section. Such declaration, absent any other proof of ownership, shall be deemed satisfactory proof of ownership for the purposes of this Code section; provided, however, that, in the case of motor vehicles, trailers, tractors, or motorcycles which are required to be registered with the state revenue commissioner, any such stolen vehicle shall be returned to the person evidencing ownership of such vehicle through a certificate of title, tag receipt, bill of sale, or other such evidence. The stolen vehicle shall be returned to the person evidencing ownership within two days after such person makes application for the return of such vehicle unless a hearing on the ownership of such vehicle is required under this Code section or unless law enforcement needs the stolen vehicle for further criminal investigation purposes. Prior to such delivery, such person in charge of the property section shall make and retain a complete photographic record of such property. Such delivery shall be without prejudice to the state or to the person from whom custody of the property was taken or to any other person who may have a claim against the property.
(3) If the person from whom custody of the property was taken asserts a claim to such property and requests a hearing, the court which examines the charge against the person accused of stealing, embezzling, or otherwise unlawfully obtaining the property, or the court before whom the trial is had for stealing, embezzling, or otherwise unlawfully obtaining the property shall conduct the hearing to determine the ownership of such property.
(4) The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any contraband or property subject to forfeiture under any provision of law.
(c) Photographs, video tapes, or other identification or analysis of the property involved, duly identified in writing by the law enforcement officer originally taking custody of the property as accurately representing such property, shall be admissible at trial in lieu of the original property.
(d) In the case of unknown or unapprehended defendants or defendants willfully absent from the jurisdiction, the court shall have discretion to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interest of the unknown or absent defendants.
(e) Statements made by the defendant or a person representing the defendant at a hearing provided for in subsection (b) of this Code section shall not be admissible for use against the defendant at trial.