Criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding brought by the criminal prosecution against an offender, resulting in the forfeiture of the offender’s property, assets, and proceeds directly or indirectly obtained from the criminal activity. Unlike civil forfeiture, criminal forfeiture requires a conviction. Therefore, criminal forfeiture can only take place after the offender’s criminal prosecution ends in conviction. Criminal forfeiture is limited to the property, assets, and proceeds related to the counts under which the offender gets convicted. The prosecution must establish by a preponderance of the evidence the connection between the crime of conviction and the property, assets, or illegal earnings that the government will seize.
If the defendant is not convicted of committing a crime, the prosecution may not pursue criminal forfeiture.
For example, if a person uses a vehicle to transport illegal drugs, such a vehicle would be subject to criminal forfeiture. Likewise, any money obtained from selling the illegal drugs would also be subject to criminal forfeiture. In both cases, the offender would have to be convicted of a drug-related crime.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]