Crime and Forfeiture: In Short [January 22, 2015]   [open pdf - 200KB]

From the summary: "Forfeiture has long been an effective law enforcement tool. Congress and state legislatures have authorized its use for over 200 years. […] Modern forfeiture follows one of two procedural routes. Although crime triggers all forfeitures, they are classified as civil forfeitures or criminal forfeitures according to the nature of the procedure that ends in confiscation. Civil forfeiture is an in rem proceeding. The property is the defendant in the case. Unless the statute provides otherwise, the innocence of the owner is irrelevant--it is enough that the property was involved in a violation to which forfeiture attaches. As a matter of expedience and judicial economy, Congress often allows administrative forfeiture in uncontested civil confiscation cases. Criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding, and confiscation is only possible upon the conviction of the owner of the property. […] The statutes governing the disposal of forfeited property may authorize its destruction, its transfer for governmental purposes, or deposit of the property or of the proceeds from its sale in a special fund. Intergovernmental transfers and the use of special funds are hallmarks of federal forfeiture. Every year federal agencies transfer hundreds of millions of dollars and property to state, local, and foreign law enforcement officials as compensation for their contribution to joint enforcement efforts."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RS22005
Public Domain
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