The Namibian Constitution, specifically Articles 13 and 16, gives Namibian citizens the right to privacy and to acquire, own and dispose of all forms of immovable and movable property. However, property may be seized by the police if such property is believed to have been used in the commission of crime, proceeds of a crime, or when illegally in possession of the property. For example: vehicles used in transporting stolen property; weapons used in the commission of a crime; profit made from selling drugs or contrabands; and proceeds from financial crimes may be seized by the police.
The police may seize or confiscate these properties under authority of a search warrant issued by a competent authority. Nevertheless, there are circumstances whereby the police may seize property or search any person (provided that the person to be searched consents to such search) or search any premises without a search warrant, if the police official believes, on reasonable grounds, that a search warrant will be issued to him/her if he/she applies for it at a later stage and that delay in obtaining such warrant would defeat the primary purpose of the search as mandated by Section 22 of the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 51 of 1977.
The main reasons why the police seize properties are to present such items as evidence during court proceedings; to avoid these items from being destroyed as it may defeat the course of justice, and to prevent repetition of commission of crime. For example: the mere possession of cannabis, unlicensed weapons and counterfeit money is prohibited by law and the continued possession of such items constitutes an offence.
What happens to seized properties?
A lack of understanding on how the police deal with seized property may cause divided opinions and frustration in some instances. It is therefore imperative that our community should understand that the police deal with these properties in the manner in compliance with prescribed laws and not how they wish.
After seizing property, the police issue a receipt in a prescribed form, referred to as Pol 7 and an identification mark will be made or attached to such items as they remain in police custody until the case is finalised. However, if such property is perishable, Section 30 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows police officials to return such property to the lawful owner. They will first take pictures of such property, to be used as evidence in the court of law. After the conclusion of the case the court will make an order that the items either be returned to the lawful owner or should be forfeited to the state or be destroyed.
It must be understood that the Namibian Police Force does not seize property for own use.
CAUTION: Stay alert; make the right decisions and be a law-abiding citizen.
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*Compiled by the Namibian
Police Public Relations Division