In a criminal case, an execution sale or a “writ of execution” is an order used to make the defendant pay a criminal fine or into a victim’s compensation fund.

Once a court issues a writ of execution, usually a local sheriff is charged with taking possession of the property owned by the defendant. The property can then be sold in a sheriff’s sale and the money or a portion of it will be use to pay the fine or be put into the fund.

When is the Writ of Execution Applied?

A writ of execution is necessary whenever a defendant is required by the law to pay a fine but the defendant will not do so voluntarily. A writ of execution allows the sheriff to collect property which will then be sold to pay the defendant’s criminal fines.

Any leftover proceeds are sometimes placed in a victim’s fund which reimburses the injured party for their losses. Execution sales typically deal with the defendant’s personal property rather than their real property because real property sales can be much more complex.

The debtor’s bank account can be accessed in certain cases but certain funds of a debtor may be off limits to debt collectors even with a writ of execution. Some funds which may be off limits are Social Security Income, IRA money, and unemployment income.

What is a Judicial Sale and How is It Different From a Execution Sale?

Judicial sales are similar to execution sales in that the defendant’s property is sold for the purpose of collecting fine payments. Both types of sales are open to the public but in certain situations, private sales may be authorized by the court.

Under federal rules and also in many states, the property sold in a judicial or execution sale must first be appraised, unless it’s waived by the parties. However, there are some differences between judicial sales and execution sales. These are the characteristics of an execution sale:

  • It is based on a writ issued by the clerk of the court and it is not a court order;
  • The writ does not generally designate the specific property which is to be sold;
  • The court imposes no conditions; and
  • Sales do not need to be confirmed by the court.

However, judicial sales are like the following:

  • A judicial sale is a sale which is conducted under a court order, decree, or judgment by a court-appointed officer or fiduciary;
  • The sale is restricted to specified real or personal property under certain conditions;
  • The sale must be confirmed by the court to be a final sale; and
  • The sale is usually only ordered after a final judgment.

There are exceptions when the property to be sold is perishable or likely to depreciate in value. So judicial sales involve more monitoring by the court and in that sense, they are somewhat more formal.

There are also “special execution sales” which are similar to judicial sales in that they are issued through a court order and they are required to be reported to a court for confirmation.

What are Some of the Other Alternatives?

Other than execution sales and judicial sales, courts also can consider other alternatives. One way to get criminal fine payments is through garnishment where the defendant’s payments are directly accessed from their wages or bank accounts.

The court then uses this money directly for the fine payments. Another way is through a foreclosure sale. In foreclosure sales, a lien is placed on the defendant’s real property such as their home and the real property is then sold and the proceeds
go towards paying the criminal fine.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have any particular questions regarding execution sales or judicial sales and if you want to know what are your rights and obligations under the law, then it would be beneficial to consult with a local criminal lawyer.