A judge ordered New York City to turn over a dirt bike it seized after arresting its operator for illegally driving it on a Bronx sidewalk.

Bronx Criminal Court Judge Linda Poust Lopez (See Profile) ruled that the Bronx District Attorney’s Office was mistaken in its claim that it could hold the dirt bike for as long as prosecutors wanted because it might be used as evidence in a trial of its owner, Jermaine Williams, for reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and reckless driving.

But the judge said a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Krimstock v. Kelly, 306 F.3d 40 (2002), and that case’s progeny, established that once a written demand has been made for the return of a motor vehicle seized in a criminal investigation, authorities must seek a retention order from a court if they want to keep it for use at trial.

Poust Lopez said there was “no dispute” that the dirt bike qualified as a motor vehicle for purposes of the criminal case against Williams. Since no retention order was sought by the district attorney’s office, the judge ordered the city to return the dirt bike.

Poust Lopez said the rules “could not be clearer” that police and prosecutors “do not have the unilateral right to retain a vehicle for arrest evidence without getting a retention order from a judge,” she wrote in her May 29 ruling in People v. Williams, 2013BX068983.

Assistant Bronx District Attorney Julia Gordon argued for the prosecution. Mia Jackson of the Bronx Defenders is representing Williams.