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Asset Forfeiture

The role of the Asset Forfeiture staff of the United States Attorney’s Office is to identify, seize, and ultimately forfeit, through both criminal and civil procedures, any assets-- tangible property, real property, or cash-- and return those assets to victims of the offense that gave rise to the forfeiture through the remission and restoration process.  Asset Forfeiture removes the tools of the trade from the criminals and their organizations, deprives wrongdoers of the proceeds of their crime, and recovers property that may be used to compensate victims by forfeiting proceeds, facilitating property and property involved in the offense.

Q. What is Asset Forfeiture?

A:  Asset Forfeiture is the process by which the Government confiscates money and/or property that may represent proceeds of a crime or property used or involved in the commission of a crime.

Q: Why is Asset Forfeiture used?

A: Asset Forfeiture is used to:
      • remove the tools of crime so they cannot be used again;
      • recover property for victims of crime;
      • deter crime by taking away the profit; and
      • punish the wrongdoer.

Q: What things can be forfeited?

A:  There are different legal theories of forfeiture.  Property that the wrongdoer would not have had but for the crime can be forfeited as proceeds.  For example, cash acquired through an unlawful activity such as drug dealing, or a car bought with cash from drug dealing can be forfeited under the proceeds theory. 
Property that makes the crime easier to commit or harder to detect is called facilitating property. For example, a house where drug sales occur can be forfeited under the facilitating theory.

Q: What are the different types of forfeiture?

A:  Administrative Forfeiture is a non-judicial matter that is handled by the seizing Government agency.
Civil Forfeiture is a judicial matter against property itself.  It is started by the Government filing a civil complaint. The property is the defendant in the case, so no criminal charges or conviction are necessary.
Criminal Forfeiture is a judicial action against a person’s interest in property and is brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant.  It requires that the Government include a forfeiture allegation in the Indictment or Information to provide notice of the intent to forfeit property.  If the Government establishes that the property forfeitable, the court issues an order of forfeiture which gives ownership of the property to the Government.

Q. What is an asset forfeiture money judgment?

A:  An asset forfeiture money judgment can be obtained when the proceeds or property involved in criminal activity cannot be located.  In such cases, the Government establishes the value of the assets that would be subject to forfeiture.  The court can order a money judgment against the defendant which allows the Government to pursue all available methods of collection in order to obtain that amount of money from the defendant.  Money judgments never expire.

Q. Can forfeited funds or property be used by other agencies?

A:  After victims have been restored, forfeited assets can be used, as permitted by federal law, to provide valuable additional resources to federal, state and local law enforcement activities.  This is called equitable sharing.  Law enforcement agencies that participate in a federal investigation can apply for a share of the assets seized and forfeited in the investigation.  The share received by the agency depends on the amount that agency contributed to the investigation in terms of manpower and resources.


Updated April 6, 2022