Asset forfeiture laws give the government the power to take assets acquired using money gained through illegal activities.
There are three different types of asset forfeiture proceedings that may lead to the government claiming your home, money or possessions.
1. Administrative forfeiture
A government entity may send you notice that they have an interest in your property. They can do this without ever filing legal charges against you. This is common in cases where they already have the property in question, such as property seized through a traffic stop. Once they give you notice or post a notice to a government website, you have a limited time to respond and claim your property. If you fail to respond properly in time, you lose the property.
2. Civil forfeiture
Civil forfeiture is a legal action against the property itself. The goal is to remove the property from everyone who may have an ownership claim to it, even owners never charged with a crime. Similar to administrative forfeiture, if one of the owners misses any requirements or deadlines in responding, that owner may lose the property without the government proving any wrongdoing.
3. Criminal forfeiture
Criminal forfeiture is part of criminal prosecution. As part of a criminal case against a person or company, the government will try to take any property used to commit an alleged crime or gained through an alleged crime.
Forfeiture is the loss of something as penalty for wrongdoing. There are different defenses available to any property owner depending on the type of forfeiture and whether or not the owner had knowledge of the alleged crime.