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Civil Forfeiture: The Experience of the United States

Civil forfeiture is a legal proceeding that forces obedience to the law by transferring ownership of property that has been used in violation of the legal code. What is unique about civil forfeiture is that it is not necessary to prove that the owner of the property committed the crime. The prosecution is against the property, not the owner. Such forfeitures are based upon the “relation back” doctrine, which transfers title of property to the government at the moment a criminal act is committed. Seizure and formal proceedings simply confirm the forfeiture that has already taken place.

Seizure proceedings also provide property owners with an opportunity to be heard as required by the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. ...

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