Definition And Explanation Of Civil Forfeiture And Criminal Forfeiture

"Administrative forfeiture is the process by which property may be forfeited to the United States without judicial involvement. Federal seizing agencies perform administrative forfeitures. Seizures must be based on probable cause. The authority for a seizing agency to start an administrative forfeiture action is found in 19 U.S.C. § 1607.
"Administrative forfeiture can be used to seize and forfeit the following:
• any amount of currency;
• personal property valued at $500,000 or less, including cars, guns, and boats;
• hauling conveyances of unlimited value.
"Real property cannot be forfeited administratively.
"Criminal forfeiture is an action brought as part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant that includes the forfeiture of property used or derived from the crime. If the defendant is convicted, the judge or the jury may find that the property is forfeitable. Forfeiture is limited to the property interests of the defendant and only to property involved in the particular counts on which the defendant is convicted. Only the defendant’s interest can be forfeited in a criminal case because criminal forfeiture is part of the sentence in the criminal case.
"Civil forfeiture is a proceeding brought against the property rather than against the person who committed the offense. Civil forfeiture does not require either criminal charges against the owner of the property or a criminal conviction.
"To obtain a federal forfeiture, the Government must prove the forfeiture and the connection between the property and the crime by a preponderance of the evidence. Forfeiture may be applicable to property that is traceable as proceeds of the offense, that facilitated the offense, or that was involved in money laundering. All claims of interest or ownership in the property, such as property owned by third parties, are resolved in a single trial."


Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, "Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies." (Washington DC: U.S. Justice Department, April 2009), Appendix A. pp. 31-32.