What Is the Difference Between Asset Seizure and Asset Forfeiture?

Asset Forfeiture vs. Asset Seizure


Having law enforcement officers take one’s property can leave one feeling helpless. In many cases, the circumstances that led to the action could have been avoided. Often, the target of the legal confiscation of assets or funds may even be innocent of the offenses they are accused of.

There are many who wonder whether a law enforcement agency can legally remove a person’s property and what their recourse is. Understanding the difference between asset forfeiture and asset seizure can help victims make informed decisions.

A seizure occurs when a person is no longer allowed to use a particular asset, such as when the money in their bank account is frozen. When the person’s right to the assets is permanently lost due to a judgment or court order, it is considered asset forfeiture. Not all seizures lead to forfeiture, but a seizure usually precedes forfeiture.

The loss of property or financial resources can leave you feeling helpless and hopeless. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney like Valery Nechay about California criminal and civil asset forfeiture laws can be instrumental and provide considerable peace of mind.

What Does It Mean to Seize Assets?


Civil asset seizure is a process by which law enforcement can take possession of property and money it suspects has been obtained through illegal activities. This process is used to combat crime and ensure justice is served. It’s also valuable for law enforcement agencies to obtain funds for their operations without additional taxpayer money.

An attorney familiar with California’s search and seizure laws can provide you with resources and support.


What Are Two Types of Asset Forfeiture?


There are two types of asset forfeiture: criminal asset forfeiture and civil asset forfeiture. In California, criminal and civil forfeiture are two distinct legal processes involving property seizure.

Criminal asset forfeiture is a tool used by prosecutors to take away money or property involved in the commission of a crime. This is done as part of the person’s sentence after conviction.

Unlike criminal forfeiture, a conviction or criminal charge is unnecessary in a civil forfeiture case. Civil forfeiture is a process used by law enforcement to seize property that is suspected of being connected to criminal activity.

Both processes require a court order for the property in question to be taken away from its owner and can result in significant financial losses for those involved. Unfortunately, they can also be abused if not used properly.

How Does a Criminal Forfeiture Case Work?


A criminal forfeiture case is a legal process in which the government seizes an accused person’s assets to pay for the damages caused by their crime. This process is used to help victims and deter future criminal activity. It can also be used to help fund law enforcement activities, such as investigations and prosecutions. 

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, criminal forfeiture is brought as part of the defendant’s criminal prosecution. “It is an in personam (against the person) action and requires that the government indict (charge) the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant.”

Examples of crimes that can result in asset seizure and forfeiture include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Drug crimes

  • Money laundering

  • Fraud

  • Extortion

  • Human trafficking

Once the defendant receives a criminal conviction and the property is forfeitable, the court will seize the property.

How Does a Civil Asset Forfeiture Work?


Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize property from individuals or organizations suspected of criminal activity. The seized assets may include a variety of valuable items. In most cases, the government does not need to prove that the person or organization is guilty of a crime before taking the assets, only probable cause.

This process is intended to help law enforcement curb criminal behavior by allowing them to take away the financial resources of those believed to be involved in criminal activities. Unfortunately, civil asset forfeiture can lead to criminal violation and abuse if not adequately regulated.


What Types of Assets Are Typically Seized?


Regarding asset seizures, different types of belongings can be taken away due to a defendant’s illegal activity. Asset forfeitures can include any of the following:

  • Income tax refunds
  • Real estate
  • Vehicles, including cars, boats, and RVs
  • Jewelry
  • Financial accounts

Each type of asset has its own set of rules and regulations for seizure.

In certain circumstances, their property may be exempt. To avoid unnecessary financial hardship, you could discuss your options and concerns about forfeited funds and property with a skilled attorney.


Are any Properties Exempt From Seizure or Forfeiture?

California law exempts families from having a home seized if it is used as their primary residence. Law enforcement wouldn’t be allowed to take possession of real estate property that two or more persons own if one property owner was unaware that it was used for any illegal activities.

How Can You Get Your Seized Property Back?


The police often have the authority to take away property, and getting your seized asset back can be daunting. Whether it’s been taken by the police or another government agency, understanding the legal process and knowing your rights are essential. 

Law enforcement is supposed to provide a receipt of all cash and items seized during an investigation, which includes the amount taken.

Unfortunately, due to a complex network of laws in California, individuals may struggle to reclaim their seized properties and assets. Consulting with an experienced asset forfeiture attorney may provide important information and answers.


How Can an Attorney Help Someone Avoid Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture can be a scary prospect for anyone facing criminal charges. Sometimes, an experienced attorney can help people protect their assets and avoid the harsh penalties associated with asset forfeiture.

Having an experienced lawyer on your side can help you protect your assets and ensure any charges brought against you are made according to the law.

For questions about avoiding forfeiture or getting back seized property, talk to highly experienced attorney Valery Nechary of Valery Nechay Law. 


If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, I will consult with you in person and at no charge to you.