Return of Property

How do I get property returned to me?
Replevin and detinue are legal actions that allow you to seek the return of property.
  • Replevin seeks the return of property, along with possible damages. It allows for the possible return/possession of the property at a Show Cause hearing, a hearing held before a trial. It is filed in the District Court, regardless of the amount in dispute.
  • Detinue seeks the return of property or its value along with possible damages. It requires a trial to determine rightful owner of property. It is filed in District Court for actions up to $5,000. If a claim is between $5,000 and $30,000, the claim may be filed in either District or Circuit Court. Detinues for more than $30,000 must be filed in Circuit Court.
Before deciding which type of case to file, consider the following:
Replevin Detinue
You can ask the court to give you only the property back. You can ask the court to award you the property or its value.
File in District Court only. File in District or Circuit Court, depending on value.
Fees in District Court are less expensive.  Fees in Circuit Court are more expensive. 
The court can order the item returned to you before trial at a pre-trial Show Cause Hearing. The court cannot order the item returned to you until after a trial.
How Do I File?
Filing a replevin or detinue requires four steps:
  1. You [the plaintiff] file with the court the Complaint form. In the case of a replevin, you also must file the Request for Service and the Show Cause Order.
  2. You pay the filing fee. A fee also may apply if you want the court to “serve” the defendant with the summons. 
  3. The court issues a Writ of Summons and/or a Show Cause Order to officially notify the defendant that a suit has been filed.
  4. Proof of Service (DC-CV-002) is submitted to the court that the defendant has been served the summons.
Once the other side has been properly served, the court will schedule the hearing.  If your case is a replevin, the court will first issue a Show Cause Order, telling the other side to come to court, and will schedule a Show Cause Hearing.  The Show Cause Hearing is usually held within 3 weeks of when the Show Cause Order was issued. 

Both replevin and detinue cases require that a trial be held to determine who owns the property.

What Happens in Court?

Show Cause Hearing. At the Show Cause Hearing in a replevin case, the judge will make a preliminary decision about the case and may, if appropriate, order the property returned to you.  If the property is returned to you, pending trial, the judge may require you to post a bond in the amount of the value of the property being returned

Why should I post a bond to get my own property?   At this point in the case, no final decision has been made about who owns the property.  You post a bond so that, if the court decides the property must be returned to the other person after trial, you will be more likely to comply.

Trial.  At the final trial in either a replevin or detinue case, the judge will make a final decision about who owns the property and whether the property, or its value, should be returned to you.  At trial, you must be prepared to present your case.  Have witnesses come to court to testify.  Prepare any evidence you plan to submit to support your claim.

What if the other person does not show up?  If the other person ignores the summons and fails to appear in court, you must still appear and present your evidence.  The judge may issue a judgment, awarding possession of the property and damages, if appropriate.

What Happens After Court?
After the court decides your case, both you and the other person will receive a copy of the judgment.  If the court ordered the property, its value or damages in your favor, and the other side does not pay or provide those to you, you may need to take further steps to collect on the judgment.  See Collecting on a Judgment.