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What is Replevin and How Can It Work?


When most people think of the law, they think of things like criminal law and civil law. But there is another area of law called replevin. Replevin is a legal process that allows someone to get their property back from someone who has wrongfully taken it. It can be a very useful tool for getting back property that has been stolen or seized by the government. Although it can be complicated, replevin can be a powerful way to get your property back.

What Does Replevin Mean Exactly?

Replevin is the act of taking property that has been unlawfully seized or converted. There are other ways to be compensated for having your property taken (i.e. by filing a lawsuit, demanding damages), but replevin suits are where you seize someone’s assets and demand payment in return.

It’s kind of like “finders keepers, losers weepers.” If someone takes your car without permission, for example, this means he stole it from you – so go to court and declare yourself the rightful owner because according to equity law there should never be one without the other sides’ knowledge or approval – then request that they pay restitution or face incarceration themselves.

In Which Situations Can Replevin Work?


Replevin may be used in a variety of circumstances, including instances where two parties have rights to the property but one party has greater possession rights. It may also be used in cases where the property that was lawfully withheld but should have been given back to a person later, has not been.

Specific examples may include:

  • A secured lender attempting to seize tangible items from a debtor who has defaulted on a loan, such as seizing a borrower’s automobile after missed payments.
  • A renter who files a claim against a landlord seeking the return of property taken in exchange for back pay.
  • A family member is asking for the return of property that has been withheld by an estate administrator.
  • A private individual requesting the restoration of a public record (such as a marriage license).
  • To request the return of property that was discovered or “stolen,” but which is critical to the company’s operation.

How Are Replevin Laws Decided?

The common law of replevin actions was formerly a part of states’ civil procedure laws, although they are now generally governed by state civil procedure codes.

Replevin actions are generally commenced when a person gives papers indicating why he or she believes he or she has a right to the property — in which case a sheriff seizes the item and delivers it to the individual claiming rights until a hearing is held.

Most states allow a person to claim back his or her personal belongings prior to the court rendering a judgment by submitting a cash deposit or bond with the court in order to ensure that they are returned if the defendant fails.

In some states, a defendant who destroys or disposes of the property may be charged with contempt of court and fined.

Many states have legislation in place that specifies the rules, standards, and procedures for recovering improperly withheld property. For example, a case must be brought in a court that has the legal authority to hear the case based on the value of the property sought to be recovered.

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