Originally Posted by taustin
Yes, yes, and no. In that scenario, you are a vigilante, tampering with evidence in a crime, even if that evidence is your bike. For the law to be otherwise is to invite vigilantism, which is just not a good idea. The moment that it's up to you, and only you, to determine if that bike is your stolen bike, you have little incentive to tell the truth about it.
I happen to believe that repossessing one's own property is not an act of vigilantism. I have no problem determining what I own and what I don't own. If I'm wrong, then I suffer the consequences. (But my bike is rather unique, since I built it myself from parts of different bikes. No way I'm wrong about it.)
I also disagree with the notion that vigilantism is wrong in all circumstances. In fact, I think that a certain amount of it is necessary to sustain an orderly society. It is a mistake to turn over everything to the cops and the legal system - that sometimes just makes things worse. There is a lacuna between passivity and the law that is properly occupied by self-help.
As for tampering with evidence, get real. The purchaser is not guilty of a crime. The guy who stole the bike will never get caught. I risk losing the use of my bike for some indeterminate period of time till the legal bureaucracy gets around to telling me I can have it back - unless I get a smart cop who indirectly suggests that if I file a complaint, that will happen so maybe I should be happy to have my bike back & leave it at that.
Edit: that's not to say that there aren't risks involved with self-help. Obviously if you assault the buyer, there's a brand new crime independent of recovering your property. And if you enter someone's property to recover your bike, it's civil (but not criminal) trespass, so there might be some remote problem there. I think I'd risk that one.