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Pawn Shop Laws in Washington: Can You Get Your Things Back?

Posted Tuesday, 26 November 2013 04:52 by Brian Plant

Perhaps some of our Seattle home alarm systems customers have wondered this: If something that belongs to me is stolen and sold to a pawn shop, what are the chances I will ever get it back? Here is the answer: There is no guarantee, but you do have legal recourse for trying to get your property back. Washington state has laws that govern how pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers must do business; those laws are designed to protect everyone concerned, including innocent victims of theft whose items are sold to pawn shops by thieves.

Here is an example of one such law, Washington RCW 19.60.040 – Report to Chief Law Enforcement Officer, which states: “Upon request, every pawnbroker and secondhand dealer doing business in the state shall furnish a full, true, and correct transcript of the record of all transactions conducted on the preceding day.”

The law requires every pawn shop transaction to be recorded whatever form the city’s chief of police or county's chief law enforcement officer specifies. Furthermore, those forms must be transmitted to the applicable law enforcement agency, either by delivery of the forms, fax, email or a computer disk. The next part of the law is what specifically applies to victims of theft:

“If a pawnbroker or secondhand dealer has good cause to believe that any property in his or her possession has been previously lost or stolen, the pawnbroker or secondhand dealer shall promptly report that fact to the applicable chief of police or the county's chief law enforcement officer, together with the name of the owner, if known, and the date when, and the name of the person from whom it was received.”

Of course, a pawn shop is not going to know your items are stolen unless you tell them. If you see an item in a pawn shop that you believe is yours, take the owner a copy of your police report that features the description of the item on it. If you were able to include the serial number in the police report, that is even better (always record your serial numbers!). As the law above states, the owner is required to contact law enforcement and comply with the investigation that ensues.

Hopefully, none of our Seattle home alarm systems customers will need this information. But if you ever do, you can be prepared to act.

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