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The difference between civil and criminal asset forfeiture

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2022 | Criminal Defense

The definition of asset forfeiture is the process when the government seizes property that is allegedly connected to some crime. It originally emerged to fight the drug war; however, it has become much more prevalent over the last several years, accompanied by numerous potential issues for people who have become vulnerable to forfeiture.

Criminal forfeiture

There are two types of forfeiture: asset forfeiture and criminal forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture only happens after a person is convicted of a crime. In that case, any property that was taken can only be after it has been proved that the person is guilty of committing that particular crime.

Civil forfeiture

Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture is a type of forfeiture that the government can use easily. It does not require a conviction or a criminal charge to be filed. All the federal government needs to do is show probable cause that one or more targeted assets are linked to the crime.

Since the asset is the target of the forfeiture, rather than a person (as in a criminal case), due process protections don’t protect it in the same way. Because it is relatively easy for the government to bring a civil forfeiture action, it is used much more and is also significantly easier to abuse.

If you find yourself subject to a forfeiture, it is probably advisable for you to seek legal advice. Your situation is probably time-sensitive when it comes to challenging the forfeiture so the sooner you seek advice, the better, as far as your case is concerned.