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Civil asset forfeiture: What you need to know

Civil asset forfeiture can happen when the police or other civil institution suspects that money or another asset has or is intended to be used for wrongdoing. For example, this could be a situation where a person is carrying a large sum of cash on their person for the intent of buying a large item. If the police find this large sum of cash in their possession, it may give them reason to believe that they are using the money for the purchase of drugs, and may then decide to confiscate the money.

This article will provide a brief overview into the law regarding civil asset forfeiture and under what circumstances you may have a claim for wrongful repossession.

Civil asset forfeiture vs. criminal asset forfeiture

Criminal asset forfeiture occurs when a person has already been convicted of a crime, and then has an asset taken from them in relation to that crime, after conviction. However, in the case of civil asset forfeiture, no conviction of a crime is required in order to seize property. The asset that is seized becomes, from a legal perspective, the "defendant" in any further proceedings, rather than the person who was in possession of that asset.


The police or other civil authority must show evidence that there was sufficient reason to believe that the asset possessed was involved in wrongdoing. Even if the person who was acquitted of the related crime, there is no guarantee that he or she will ever get the assets back. There may be a case in arguing wrongful repossession if you believe there was no sufficient suspicious evidence, however.

Source: Findlaw, "What is civil asset forfeiture?," accessed Aug. 24, 2017

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