Skip to code content (skip section selection)
(a) Safekeeping of property in custody.
(1) A. Any property that has been lost, abandoned, stolen, seized pursuant to a search warrant, or otherwise lawfully seized or forfeited and that is in the custody of the Police Department shall be kept safely by the Police Department, pending the time it no longer is needed as evidence or for another lawful purpose, and shall be disposed of pursuant to this section or Ohio R.C. 2981.12 and 2981.13.
B. This section does not apply to the custody and disposal of any of the following:
1. Vehicles subject to forfeiture under Ohio R.C. Title 45, except as provided in division (b)(1)F. of this section;
2. Abandoned junk motor vehicles or other property of negligible value;
3. Property held by a department of rehabilitation and correction institution that is unclaimed, that does not have an identified owner, that the owner agrees to dispose of, or that is identified by the department as having little value;
4. Animals taken, and devices used in unlawfully taking animals, under Ohio R.C. 1531.20;
5. Controlled substances sold by a peace officer in the performance of the officer’s official duties under Ohio R.C. 3719.141;
6. Property recovered by a township law enforcement agency under Ohio R.C. 505.105 to 505.109;
7. Property held and disposed of under an ordinance of the municipality or under Ohio R.C. 737.29 to 737.33, except that if the municipality has received notice of a citizens’ reward program as provided in division (b)(5) of this section and disposes of property under an ordinance shall pay 25% of any moneys acquired from any sale or auction to the citizens’ reward program.
(2) A. The Police Department shall adopt and comply with a written internal control policy that does all of the following:
1. Provides for keeping detailed records as to the amount of property acquired by the Police Department and the date property was acquired;
2. Provides for keeping detailed records of the disposition of the property, which shall include, but not be limited to, both of the following:
a. The manner in which it was disposed, the date of disposition, detailed financial records concerning any property sold, and the name of any person who received the property. The record shall not identify or enable identification of the individual officer who seized any item of property.
b. The general types of expenditures made with amounts that are gained from the sale of the property and that are retained by the agency, including the specific amount expended on each general type of expenditure, except that the policy shall not provide for or permit the identification of any specific expenditure that is made in an ongoing investigation.
3. Complies with Ohio R.C. 2981.13 if the Police Department has a law enforcement trust fund or similar fund created under that section.
B. The records kept under the internal control policy shall be open to public inspection during the Police Department’s regular business hours. The policy adopted under this section is a public record open for inspection under Ohio R.C. 149.43.
(3) The Police Department, with custody of property to be disposed of under this section or Ohio R.C. 2981.12 or 2981.13, shall make a reasonable effort to locate persons entitled to possession of the property, to notify them of when and where it may be claimed, and to return the property to them at the earliest possible time. In the absence of evidence identifying persons entitled to possession, it is sufficient notice to advertise in a newspaper of general circulation in the county and to briefly describe the nature of the property in custody and inviting persons to view and establish their right to it.
(4) As used in this section:
A. “Citizens’ reward program” has the same meaning as in Ohio R.C. 9.92.
B. “Law enforcement agency” includes correctional institutions.
C. “Township law enforcement agency” means an organized police department of a township, a township police district, a joint police district, or the office of a township constable.
(b) Disposition of unclaimed or forfeited property.
(1) Unclaimed or forfeited property in the custody of the Police Department, other than property described in division (a)(1)B. of this section, shall be disposed of by order of any court of record that has territorial jurisdiction over the municipality, as follows:
A. Drugs shall be disposed of pursuant to Ohio R.C. 3719.11 or placed in the custody of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for disposal or use for medical or scientific purposes under applicable federal law.
B. Firearms and dangerous ordnance suitable for police work may be given to a law enforcement agency for that purpose. Firearms suitable for sporting use or as museum pieces or collectors’ items may be sold at public auction pursuant to division (b)(2) of this section. The Police Department may sell other firearms and dangerous ordnance to a federally licensed firearms dealer in a manner that the court considers proper. The Police Department shall destroy any firearms or dangerous ordnance not given to a law enforcement agency or sold or shall send them to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation for destruction by the Bureau.
C. Obscene materials shall be destroyed.
D. Beer, intoxicating liquor, or alcohol seized from a person who does not hold a permit issued under Ohio R.C. Chapters 4301 and 4303 or otherwise forfeited to the state for an offense under Ohio R.C. 4301.45 or Ohio R.C. 4301.53 shall be sold by the Division of Liquor Control if the Division determines that it is fit for sale or shall be placed in the custody of the Investigations Unit in the Ohio Department of Public Safety and be used for training relating to law enforcement activities. The Ohio Department of Public Safety, with the assistance of the Division of Liquor Control, shall adopt rules in accordance with Ohio R.C. Chapter 119 to provide for the distribution to state or local law enforcement agencies upon their request. If any tax imposed under Ohio R.C. Title 43 has not been paid in relation to the beer, intoxicating liquor, or alcohol, any moneys acquired from the sale shall first be used to pay the tax. All other money collected under this division (b)(1)D. shall be paid into the State Treasury. Any beer, intoxicating liquor, or alcohol that the Division determines to be unfit for sale shall be destroyed.
E. Money received by an inmate of a correctional institution from an unauthorized source or in an unauthorized manner shall be returned to the sender, if known, or deposited in the inmates’ industrial and entertainment fund of the institution if the sender is not known.
F. 1. Any mobile instrumentality forfeited under Ohio R.C. Chapter 2981 may be given to the law enforcement agency that initially seized the mobile instrumentality for use in performing its duties, if the agency wants the mobile instrumentality. The agency shall take the mobile instrumentality subject to any security interest or lien on the mobile instrumentality.
2. Vehicles and vehicle parts forfeited under Ohio R.C. 4549.61 to 4549.63 may be given to a law enforcement agency for use in performing its duties. Those parts may be incorporated into any other official vehicle. Parts that do not bear vehicle identification numbers or derivatives of them may be sold or disposed of as provided by rules of the Director of Public Safety. Parts from which a vehicle identification number or derivative of it has been removed, defaced, covered, altered, or destroyed and that are not suitable for police work or incorporation into an official vehicle shall be destroyed and sold as junk or scrap.
G. Computers, computer networks, computer systems, and computer software suitable for police work may be given to a law enforcement agency for that purpose or disposed of under division (b)(2) of this section.
H. Money seized in connection with a violation of Ohio R.C. 2905.32, 2907.21, or 2907.22 shall be deposited in the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund created by Ohio R.C. 5101.87.
(2) Unclaimed or forfeited property that is not described in division (b)(1) of this section or division (a)(1)B. of this section, with court approval, may be used by the law enforcement agency in possession of it. If it is not used by the agency, it may be sold without appraisal at a public auction to the highest bidder for cash or disposed of in another manner that the court considers proper.
(3) Except as provided in divisions (b)(1) and (b)(5) of this section and after compliance with division (b)(4) of this section when applicable, any moneys acquired from the sale of property disposed of pursuant to this section shall be placed in the general revenue fund of the state, or the general fund of the municipality.
(4) If the property was in the possession of the Police Department in relation to a delinquent child proceeding in a juvenile court, 10% of any moneys acquired from the sale of property disposed of under this section shall be applied to one or more community addiction treatment services providers that are certified by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services under R.C. § 5119.36. A juvenile court shall not specify a services provider, except as provided in this division, unless the services provider is in the same county as the court or in a contiguous county. If no certified services provider is located in any of those counties, the juvenile court may specify a certified services provider anywhere in Ohio. The remaining 90% of the proceeds or cash shall be applied as provided in division (b)(3) of this section.
(5) A. If the Board of County Commissioners recognizes a citizens’ reward program under Ohio R.C. 9.92, the Board shall notify the Police Department of the recognition by filing a copy of its resolution conferring that recognition with the Police Department. When the Board recognizes a citizens’ reward program and the county includes a part, but not all, of the territory of the municipality, the Board shall so notify the Police Department of the recognition of the citizens’ reward program only if the county contains the highest percentage of the municipality’s population.
B. Upon being so notified, the Police Department shall pay 25% of any forfeited proceeds or cash derived from each sale of property disposed of pursuant to this section to the citizens’ reward program for use exclusively to pay rewards. No part of the funds may be used to pay expenses associated with the program. If a citizens’ reward program that operates in more than one county or in another state in addition to this state receives funds under this section, the funds shall be used to pay rewards only for tips and information to law enforcement agencies concerning offenses committed in the county from which the funds were received.
(6) Any property forfeited under Ohio R.C. Chapter 2981 not be used to pay any fine imposed upon a person who is convicted of or pleads guilty to an underlying criminal offense or a different offense arising out of the same facts and circumstances.
(7) Any moneys acquired from the sale of personal effects, tools, or other property seized because the personal effects, tools, or other property were used in the commission of a violation of Ohio R.C. 2905.32, 2907.21, or 2907.22 or derived from the proceeds of the commission of a violation of Ohio R.C. 2905.32, 2907.21, or 2907.22 and disposed of pursuant to this division (b) shall be placed in the Victims of Human Trafficking Fund created by Ohio R.C. 5101.87.
(c) Disposition of contraband, proceeds, or instrumentalities. Except as otherwise provided in Ohio R.C. 2981.13, property ordered forfeited as contraband, proceeds, or an instrumentality pursuant to Ohio R.C. Chapter 2981 shall be disposed of, used, or sold pursuant to division (b) of this section or Ohio R.C. 2981.12. If the property is to be sold under division (b) of this section or Ohio R.C. 2981.12, the prosecutor shall cause notice of the proposed sale to be given in accordance with law.
Forfeiture of property generally, see R.C. Chapter 2981