Conversion is the serious intentional interference of the person’s right to possess property. In other words, someone does not own a piece of property has taken control of the property away from the true owner and converted it into their own property. The person whose rights were interfered with can sue the individual who interfered with those rights. 

What Is Detinue?

Detinue was a way for a plaintiff to seek recovery of their specific property in court. It was abolished in 1977 and replaced with interference with property torts such as conversion. Under detinue, the defendant could have taken the property by lawful means, but retains it unlawfully. The plaintiff does not have to ever have the property in their possession to seek recovery of it through detinue.

Detinue vs. Replevin

Replevin allows a defendant to recover their personal property lost via a personal injury tort such as conversion. They may also receive other legal damages along with the item.


Detinue is similar to replevin, but there is a major difference between the two. Replevin is based on a wrongful taking, while detinue was based on wrongful holding or retaining of the property. In other words, the plaintiff used detinue to recover property that the defendant has taken and will not return, whereas a plaintiff uses replevin to recover property that the defendant has simply wrongfully taken, regardless of the defendant’s current status of possession.

What Were the Requirements for Detinue?

In order for a plaintiff to recover property under detinue, they were required to show:

  1. The property sought must be identifiable in a unique way, and
  2. The plaintiff has not made any demands by the defendant to return the property prior to filing the lawsuit.

Could I Also Sue for Money in Addition to My Property?

Yes, a plaintiff was permitted to seek monetary damages for the specific time the property was in the defendant’s possession.

What If I Am Sued for Detinue?

Since detinue is no longer used, you would be sued under the tort of conversion instead of detinue. If you are sued for conversion, there are defenses available to you.

Should I Contact a Lawyer about Detinue?

If you are suing a person for conversion or being sued for conversion, you need to contact a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer can provide you with helpful legal advice.