DOVER, Pa. - A York County man is at the center of the debate over civil asset forfeiture after he successfully recovered a laptop seized by police years after criminal charges against him were dropped.
Andrew Bolton was arrested three years ago on suspicion of possessing and disseminating child pornography, but even after the York County District Attorney's office dropped the charges, the Northern York County Regional Police Department was still in possession of Bolton's laptop.
His father, Stanley, led an effort to recover the laptop, even though it is several years old and was valued at less than what it cost to get it back.
"I felt that was unfair," Stanley Bolton said. "Everything was dropped and resolved and I felt that the laptop should come back, so we decided to fight."
Officers kept the laptop, saying it would not give it up unless directed by court order, police said.
"One report said there wasn't anything found, so to the best of our knowledge, they know there wasn't anything illegal on it according to the reports we were given," Stanley Bolton said.
The Boltons had initially retained an attorney, paying a $250 fee, but decided to go it alone after a proposed negotiated settlement presented to the family would have relinquished the family's rights to sue the police department.
"I felt we'll try it on our own, do the best we can with the expectations that more than likely the outcome wasn't going to be favorable to us," Stanley Bolton said. "At the same time, if they were going to take it, a judge would have to rule it in their favor for them to have it."
Police eventually relinquished the laptop on the condition that they erase the hard drive, and Anthony Bolton agreed to that condition in a court proceeding.
The Boltons say they have not used the computer for anything since they recovered it, and the charging cable for it is missing.
The principle of the matter is a key reason the Boltons fought to recover the computer.
"If you don't stand up, you're definitely going to lose, so you've got to at least stand up if you want to have a chance to win," Stanley Bolton said.
The Boltons have one final court appearance later this month: a hearing in which Andrew Bolton will look to have his arrest record expunged.