Often, when a crime is committed using a dangerous weapon, or when law enforcement officers find dangerous weapons during a search, the weapons are confiscated by law enforcement. This article explains the laws relating to the confiscation of dangerous weapons and what happens to those weapons.
What is the legal definition of confiscation and disposition of dangerous weapons?
The laws relating to brothels are governed by NRS 202.253, and 202.340.
NRS 202.253 – Definitions.
As used in NRS 202.253 to 202.369, inclusive:
- “Explosive or incendiary device” means any explosive or incendiary material or substance that has been constructed, altered, packaged or arranged in such a manner that its ordinary use would cause destruction or injury to life or property.
- “Firearm” means any device designed to be used as a weapon from which a projectile may be expelled through the barrel by the force of any explosion or other form of combustion.
- “Firearm capable of being concealed upon the person” applies to and includes all firearms having a barrel less than 12 inches in length.
- “Motor vehicle” means every vehicle that is self-propelled.
NRS 202.340 – Confiscation and disposition of dangerous weapons by law enforcement agencies.
- Except as otherwise provided for firearms forfeitable pursuant to NRS 453.301, when any instrument or weapon described in NRS 202.350 is taken from the possession of any person charged with the commission of any public offense or crime or any child charged with committing a delinquent act, the instrument or weapon must be surrendered to:
- The head of the police force or department or an incorporated city if the possession thereof was detected by any member of the police force of the city; or
- The chief administrator of a state law enforcement agency, for disposal pursuant to NRS 333.220, if the possession thereof was detected by any member of the agency.
- In all other cases, the instrument or weapon must be surrendered to the sheriff of the county or the sheriff of the metropolitan police department for the county in which the instrument or weapon was taken.
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, the governing body of the county or city or the metropolitan police committee on fiscal affairs shall at least once a year order the local law enforcement officer to whom any instrument or weapon is surrendered pursuant to subsection 1 to:
- Retain the confiscated instrument or weapon for use by the law enforcement headed by the officer;
- Sell the confiscated instrument or weapon to another law enforcement agency;
- Destroy or direct the destruction of the confiscated instrument or weapon if it is not otherwise required to be destroyed pursuant to subsection 5;
- Trade the confiscated instrument or weapon to a properly licensed retailer or wholesaler in exchange for equipment necessary for the performance of the agency’s duties; or
- Donate the confiscated instrument or weapon to a museum, the Nevada National Guard or, if appropriate, to another person for use which furthers a charitable or public interest.
- All proceeds of a sale ordered pursuant to subsection 2 by:
- The governing body of a county or city must be deposited with the county treasurer or the city treasurer and the county treasurer or the city treasurer shall credit the proceeds to the general fund of the county or city
- A metropolitan police committee on fiscal affairs must be deposited in a fund which was created pursuant to NRS 280.220.
- Any officer receiving an order pursuant to subsection 2 shall comply with the order as soon as practicable.
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 6, the officer to whom a confiscated instrument or weapon is surrendered pursuant to subsection 1 shall:
- Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (c), destroy or direct to be destroyed any instrument or weapon which is determined to be dangerous to the safety of the public.
- Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (c), return any instrument or weapon, which has not been destroyed pursuant to paragraph (a):
- Upon demand, to the person from whom the instrument or weapon was confiscated if the person is acquitted of the public offense or crime of which the person was charged; or
- To the legal owner of the instrument or weapon if the Attorney General or the district attorney determines that the instrument or weapon was unlawfully acquired from the legal owner. If retention of the instrument or weapon is ordered or directed pursuant to paragraph (c), except as otherwise provided in paragraph (a), the instrument or weapon must be returned to the legal owner as soon as practicable after the order or direction is rescinded.
- Retain the confiscated instrument or weapon held by the officer pursuant to an order of a judge of a court of record or by direction of the Attorney General or district attorney that the retention is necessary for purposes of evidence, until the order or direction is rescinded.
- Return any instrument or weapon which was stolen to its rightful owner, unless the return is otherwise prohibited by law.
- Before any disposition pursuant to subsection 5, the officer who is in possession of the confiscated instrument or weapon shall submit a full description of the instrument or weapon to a laboratory which provides forensic services in this State. The director of the laboratory shall determine whether the instrument or weapon:
- Must be sent to the laboratory for examination as part of a criminal investigation; or
- Is a necessary addition to a referential collection maintained by a laboratory for purposes relating to law enforcement.
Why would a gun be confiscated by a Law Enforcement Officer?
Generally speaking, weapons are confiscated when they found in the possession of either:
- Someone who has committed a crime or other public offense; or
- A child committing a “delinquent” act.
This should seem logical, given that under both circumstances, the person found with the weapon would be taken into custody, and allowing them to retain a weapon would give them an opportunity to harm the officer taking them into custody.
What happens when an officer finds a weapon on someone they take into custody?
It depends on who confiscates the weapon.
- If the weapon is detected and confiscated by a member of the police force, then the weapon is turned over to the head of the police force or department;
- If the weapon is detected and confiscated by a member of a State Law Enforcement Agency, then the weapon is turned over to the chief administrator of that Agency;
- If the weapon is detected and confiscated by any other member of law enforcement, then it is turned over to the Sheriff of the county or of the Metropolitan Police Department for the county where it was confiscated.
But what happens from there? Where does the weapon end up?
Every year, the confiscated weapons are disposed of in one of several ways:
- The weapon may be retained by the agency that confiscated it for use in its duties;
- The weapon may be sold to another law enforcement agency for use in its duties;
- The weapon may be destroyed;
- The weapon may be traded to a licensed retailer or wholesaler, in exchange for equipment that the agency needs;
- Donated to a museum;
- Donated to the National Guard; or
- If appropriate, the weapon may be donated to another person for either charity or public use.
So, whoever confiscates it gets to use it for their own benefit?
Sort of. If the weapon is sold, then the proceeds aren’t simply kept by the agency who confiscated the weapon.
If the weapon was confiscated by a metropolitan police department, and subsequently sold by that department, then the proceeds must go into a fund created by the department.
If the weapon was confiscated by any other law enforcement agency, then the proceeds must be deposited with the county or city treasurer. The funds are then credited to the general fund for the county or city.
So, if I have a weapon confiscated, I’m never going to see it again?
Not necessarily, if the weapon is lawfully owned by you, and there is no legal reason that you are not allowed to own the weapon, it will be returned to you. The 2 most common ways this usually happens are:
- The weapon was stolen from you, and then confiscated from the thief at some time thereafter. Since you were doing nothing wrong, and the weapon was legally yours, then the agency will return the weapon to you as soon as possible. Of course, if the weapon was used in the commission of a crime and is therefore evidence, you will be required to wait until the agency is able to release it to you.
- The weapon was illegally confiscated from you. This is usually the result of an illegal search and seizure. Once the Court, and the Attorney General, has been satisfied that the weapon should not have been confiscated from you, it should be released back to you.
Please Note: Any weapon that you do not legally own cannot be returned to you, regardless of whether it was illegally confiscated from you.
Is there anything else I should know?
Prior to a weapon being disposed of in any way, the agency will provide a detailed description of the weapon to a forensic laboratory. If the laboratory determines that the weapon may have been used in the commission of a crime, then it will require that the weapon be sent to the laboratory for testing to verify whether the weapon is necessary to an ongoing investigation.
The laboratory may also determine that the weapon is a necessary addition to a referential collection maintained by a forensic laboratory.
What do you mean by a “referential collection”?
Often, when conducting a forensic investigation, a laboratory needs to test a theory involving the weapons used in the crime. Such testing may require a physical test with the weapon used in the crime. In such circumstances, the laboratory cannot conduct the testing with the weapon that is in evidence and must use a weapon as similar as possible.
For example, if the investigation into a murder uncovers a theory that the victim was stabbed with a hunting knife, and there is a hunting knife in evidence, the laboratory may want to test how a hunting knife would cut into flesh, muscle, or bone. Of course, they cannot use the alleged murder weapon, because they could inadvertently tamper with the evidence. Consequently, they would need a similar hunting knife on hand to use, or “refer to,” for testing.
If none of the above situations applies to your confiscated weapon, then it is possible to get the weapon back. You should contact the agency that confiscated the weapon and find out who they turned the weapon over to.
Alternatively, if you have had a weapon wrongly confiscated, you should speak with an experienced attorney about your options and the possibility of retrieving your property.