Forfeiture is the government seizure of property connected to illegal activity. It is a powerful remedy and deterrent to white collar crime.
Criminal forfeiture is part of the defendant’s sentence and is mandatory if the defendant is convicted of an offense giving rise to forfeiture.
Civil forfeiture is a separate action in which the property is named as the “defendant” and anyone wishing to contest the forfeiture must intervene in the case as a “claimant”. Civil forfeiture is used when 1) the property is seized but the forfeiture is unopposed 2) the defendant is deceased 3) the defendant is a fugitive or a foreign national beyond jurisdiction of the United States; 4) the statute of limitations has run on the criminal case; 5) the property has been recovered, but it is not known who committed the crime giving rise to the forfeiture; 6) the defendant pleads guilty to a crime different from the one giving rise to the forfeiture; 7) there is no federal criminal case because the defendant has already been convicted in a state or foreign or tribal court; 8) there is no criminal case because the interests of justice do not require a conviction; 9) the evidence is insufficient to prove that the defendant committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt; 10) and when the defendant uses someone else’s property to commit the crime and that person is not an innocent owner.