Criminal forfeiture refers to the taking of a person’s property by the state, usually in connection with criminal activity. For example, if a person’s home was being used for drug production, the home may be seized as part of the criminal trial and investigation. This is known as criminal forfeiture, where the person “forfeits” their property.

What is the Difference Between Criminal Forfeiture and Civil Forfeiture?

Criminal forfeiture is also common for property that was obtained through criminal means. The laws governing criminal forfeiture can vary by state, and may also be different according to the nature of the crime involved. 

Civil forfeiture is very similar to criminal forfeiture, except that the forfeiture occurs without any criminal charges being filed against the defendant. In a civil forfeiture, the charges are actually brought against the property itself. For example, if you’re driving with a large amount of money and the police are unable to bring charges against you, then they can “bring charges” against the money and take the money from you. 

When Does Criminal Forfeiture Apply?

Criminal forfeiture usually applies when:

  • Forfeiture is allowed under the laws in the jurisdiction;
  • The defendant has been convicted of, or is in the process
    of being convicted of a crime; and
  • The property has a strong enough connection to the criminal activity to justify depriving the owner of their property.

Some commonly seized properties and assets in a criminal forfeiture action include:

  • Homes;
  • Businesses and business assets;
  • Automobiles; and
  • Other types of real property.

In particular, criminal forfeiture especially applies to certain offenses more than others, like drug trafficking, racketeering, and illegal gambling.   

What are my Rights When it Comes to Criminal Forfeiture of Property?

A person’s rights in connection with criminal forfeiture will vary by state, as well the type of crime involved. 

One important aspect of criminal forfeiture is the timing of when it’s raised. In most cases, the defendant will be given advance notice of the forfeiture issues even before prosecution begins. If given notice, it may be possible to address the issue of forfeiture through plea negotiations with the prosecutor. 

But in some cases, criminal forfeiture is only raised later on, such as during trial or after conviction. If that happens, the forfeiture may depend on the evidence that is presented during trial. 

Either way, it is important to have a criminal lawyer representing you as they will know best when to raise any issues with criminal forfeiture as it is possible to lose the opportunity to bring up the issue. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance With Criminal Forfeiture Proceedings?

If you’re facing issues with criminal forfeiture, it may be worth your while to consult with a criminal lawyer. A competent lawyer can help explain the criminal forfeiture laws in your area, and can zealously represent you during court proceedings. Although forfeiture is somewhat rare, criminal forfeiture can have dramatic effects on a person’s property.