If law enforcement believes you have items connected to a crime, they can seize those assets. According to the FBI, they use asset forfeiture to deprive criminal organizations and those guilty of crimes of assets or cash they may obtain illegally.
Ancient governments used asset forfeiture to defend against piracy. Essentially, the governments may seize contraband and ships. Nowadays, asset forfeiture looks a little different.
Why does the government practice asset forfeiture?
One of the most common reasons the government may seize assets is to disrupt a criminal organization or remove tools from criminals’ hands. If you face criminal charges, the government may try to use asset forfeiture to punish you or to deter future illegal activity. Other reasons for asset forfeiture include protecting communities and returning the assets to their rightful owners.
What does asset forfeiture look like?
You may be subject to criminal forfeiture if you have criminal proceedings against you. Criminal forfeiture only happens during a criminal prosecution. The government indicts the property. If the government seizes your property, you have a right to contest the seizure. The government may also seize property under civil judicial forfeiture. The government does not need a criminal conviction but can still file an action against the property rather than against you.
If no one files to contest a seizure, it is an administrative forfeiture. In most cases, people do not contest seizures of property. Some items that wind up forfeited include merchandise and conveyances to store, import or transport controlled substances. The property does not exceed $500,000 for administrative forfeiture.