replevin (rih-PLAY-vihn, rih-PLEH-vihn) n. repossession of goods wrongfully taken, with pledge to return them if defeated in lawsuit on the matter; a writ or action in such a case; a civil action taken to recover personal property said or claimed to be unlawfully taken.
Derived from from Old French term plevir ("to pledge"), replevin is one of the oldest known forms of action in English common law, first appearing in English courts in the thirteenth century. Acts of replevin were geared toward restoring the property itself to the person entitled to possess it, and defendants could not use as an excuse the fact that the property belonged to someone not involved in the lawsuit, as the only issue considered by English courts was rightful possession, not title.
Replevin is sometimes used in disputes between buyers and sellers, as in the case of a seller who brings a replevin action to reclaim merchandise from a buyer who failed to pay for the goods.
I came across this word in learning of a young Ohio woman who was caught shoplifting. Not only did she face a fine and possible jail sentence for the attempted theft of $84 worth of merchandise - which she certainly deserved - but a group of crafty lawyers at a firm known as Palmer, Reifler and Associates is chasing her for an additional $252 in replevin compensation. This is permitted under Ohio Revised Code ORC 2307.61 - Civil action for willful damage or theft:
Three times the value of the property at the time it was willfully damaged or was the subject of a theft offense, irrespective of whether the property is recovered by way of replevin or otherwise, is destroyed or otherwise damaged, is modified or otherwise altered, or is resalable at its full market price. This division does not apply to a check, negotiable order of withdrawal, share draft, or other negotiable instrument that was returned or dishonored for insufficient funds by a financial institution if the check, negotiable order of withdrawal, share draft, or other negotiable instrument was presented by an individual borrower to a check-cashing business licensed pursuant to sections 1315.35 to 1315.44 of the Revised Code for a check-cashing loan transaction.While I am sympathetic to the plight of someone for whom such laws must seem like double jeopardy - especially in a case where the owner of the goods never actually lost possession, since the would-be thief was caught in the store - I suppose the best advice is pretty simple: don't steal, and you won't be harassed by legal goons like Palmer, Reifler and Associates for replevin judgments.