Forfeitures Law and Legal Definition

Forfeiture is the legal process by which the ownership of property, such as houses, cars, airplanes, cash, bank accounts, etc. is forcibly transferred from its owner to the government. The rationale behind such a transfer is that the property, rather than the owner, has done something wrong or been used for wrongful purposes.

Forfeiture is commonly used as a weapon in the war against illegal drugs. As part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, Congress strengthened civil forfeiture as a means of confiscating illegal substances and the means by which they are manufactured and distributed. In 1978 Congress amended the act to authorize the seizure and forfeiture of the proceeds of illegal drug transactions as well. The statute provides for the forfeiture of "all moneys, negotiable instruments, securities, or other things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in exchange for a controlled substance [as well as] all proceeds traceable to such an exchange."