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What Is Criminal Asset Forfeiture?

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What Is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

Civil asset forfeiture in criminal cases is a device used to stop organized crime that allows the government to take the property of people convicted of certain crimes. An individual facing civil asset forfeiture may also face criminal asset forfeiture.

What Is Criminal Asset Forfeiture?

Criminal asset forfeiture involves a state taking the personal property of someone convicted of a crime such as drug trafficking if that property is connected to the crime. For example, a person convicted of making drugs in their home faces a governmental seizure of said home.

Can the Government Take Any Property I Own?

No. The government can take property which meets one or both criteria:

  • The property was used during a crime
  • The property was obtained as a result of criminal activity

In the first category, a car may be seized by the government if it was used to transport drugs. In the second category, a business could be taken if it was started with money from selling illegal weapons.

How Does the Government Decide Whether to Take the Property?

The government will look at a person’s property to determine if it meets the following requirements:

  • Taking the property is allowed under the state or federal forfeiture laws
  • The owner of the property was convicted or is in the process of being convicted of a crime
  • There is a strong connection between the property and the criminal activity or the government can otherwise justify taking the property from the owner

Can the Government Punishing Me Twice for the Same Crime?

Double jeopardy prohibits a person from being tried more than once for a single crime after being found innocent the first time. Whether double jeopardy applies to a criminal forfeiture depends on the particular case. If a defendant was convicted and sentenced for a crime, criminal forfeiture may considered be double jeopardy.
However, civil asset forfeiture is not considered double jeopardy because it usually happens before the sentencing occurs.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Criminal Asset Forfeiture?

Yes, forfeiture laws are technical and complicated. Seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney to understand more about the laws and how to possibly regain property. 

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-01-2018 11:00 PM PDT

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