See also Robbery, Crime
Ḥāram, Hebrew Strong's #2763, is used 52 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as destroy (34), utterly (10), devote (2), accursed (1), consecrate (1), forfeited (1), flat nose (1), utterly to make away (1), slay (1). It is translated as “forfeited” in the following verse:
Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828Ezra 10:8 - And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away.
Bouvier’s Dictionary of Law, 1856FOR'FEITURE, noun
1. The act of forfeiting; the losing of some right, privilege, estate, honor, office or effects, by an offense, crime, breach of condition or other act. In regard to property, forfeiture is a loss of the right to possess, but not generally the actual possession, which is to be transferred by some subsequent process. In the feudal system, a forfeiture of lands gave him in reversion or remainder a right to enter.
2. That which is forfeited; an estate forfeited; a fine or mulet. The prince enriched his treasury by fines and forfeitures.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 1st edition, 1891 The Century Dictionary, an Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, 1895 Michael Moriarty:FORFEITURE, punishment, torts.
1. Forfeiture is a punishment annexed by law to some illegal act, or negligence, in the owner of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, whereby he loses all his interest therein, and they become vested in the party injured, as a recompense for the wrong which he alone, or the Public together with himself, hath sustained. 2 Bl. Com. 267.
2. Lands, tenements and hereditaments, may be forfeited by various means: 1. By the commission of crimes and misdemeanors. 2. By alienation contrary to law. 3. By the non performance of conditions. 4. By waste.
3. 1. Forfeiture for crimes. By the Constitution of the United States, art. 3, s. 3, it is declared that no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted. And by the Act of April 30, 1790, s. 24, 1 Story's Laws U. S. 88, it is enacted, that no conviction or judgment for any of the offences aforesaid, shall work corruption of blood, or any forfeiture of estate. As the offences punished by this act are of the blackest dye, including cases of treason, the punishment of forfeiture may be considered as being abolished. The forfeiture of the estate for crime is very much reduced in practice in this country, and when it occurs, the stater takes the title the party had, and no more. 4 Mason's R. 174; Dalrymple on Feudal Property, c. 4, p. 145 154; Fost. C. L. 95.
4. 2. Forfeiture by alienation. By the English law, estates less than a fee may be forfeited to the party entitled to the residuary interest by a breach of duty in the owner of the particular estate. When a tenant for life or years, therefore, by feoffment, fine, or recovery, conveys a greater estate than he is by law entitled to do, he forfeits his estate to the person next entitled in remainder or reversion. 2 Bl. Com. 274. In this country, such forfeitures are almost unknown, and the more just principle prevails, that the conveyance by the tenant operates only on the interest which he possessed, and does not affect the remainder man or reversioner. 4 Kent, Com. 81, 82, 424; 1 Hill. Ab. c. 4, s. 25 to 34; 3 Dall. Rep. 486; 5 Ohio, R. 30.
5. 3. Forfieture by non performance of conditions. An estate may be forfeited by a breach, or non performance of a condition annexed to the estate, either expressed in the deed at its original creation, or impliedly by law, from a principle of natural reason. 2 Bl. Com. 281; and see Ad Eject. 140 to 173. Vide article Reentry; 12 Serg. & Rawle, 190.
6. 4. Forfeiture by waste. Waste is also a cause of forfeiture. 2 Bl. Com. 283. Vide article Waste.
7. By forfeiture is also understood the neglect of an obligor to fulfil his obligation in proper time: as, when one has entered into a bond for a penal sum, upon condition to pay a smaller at a particular day, and he fails to do it, there is then said to be a forfeiture. Again, when a party becomes bound in a certain sum by a recognizance to pay a certain sum, with a condition that he will appear at court to answer or prosecute a crime, and he fails to do it, there is a forfeiture of the recognizance. Courts of equity, and now courts, of law, will relieve from the forfeiture of a bond; and upon a proper case shown, criminal courts will in general relieve from the forfeiture of a recognizance to appear. See 3 Yeates, 93; 2 Wash. C. C. 442 Blackf. 104, 200; Breeze, 257. Vide, generally, 2 Bl. Com. ch. 18; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.; 2 Kent's Com; 318; 4 Id. 422; 10 Vin. Ab. 371, 394 13 Vin. Ab. 436; Bac. Ab. Forfeiture Com. Dig. h. t.; Dane's Ab. h. t.; 1 Bro Civ. L. 252 4 Bl. Com. 382; and Considerations on the Law of Forfeiture for High Treason, London ed. l746.
Harry Browne:National Health? Socialized pension funds? State-controlled television? Search and seizure laws? Forfeiture laws? If we're not living in the Soviet Union of the United States we certainly have returned to 1776 and 'taxation without representation.'
Robert Higgs:Asset forfeiture is a mockery of the Bill of Rights. There is no presumption of innocence, no need to prove you guilty (or even charge you with a crime), no right to a jury trial, no right to confront your accuser, no right to a court-appointed attorney (even if the government has just stolen all your money), and no right to compensation for the property that's been taken.
David B. Kopel:Democrats and Republicans alike support the "War on Drugs." Federal, state, and local police make more than a million drug arrests yearly. Drug cases clog the courts. More than 60% of federal prison cells and about 30% of state prison cells hold drug offenders. No-knock drug raiders nullify the Fourth Amendment every day. Yet illicit drugs continue to pour onto the market, and they are readily available throughout the land. Looks like another failed policy. But politicians say more money will win the war. For fiscal 1996, President Clinton has requested a record $14.6 billion for this exercise in futility. State and local government will also spend huge sums. Who benefits? Posturing politicians and puritanical zealots, of course, but also the Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs Service, Coast Guard, FBI, and the rest of the drug warriors. Police love the drug war, because the forfeiture laws it inspired allow them to seize and keep private property with impunity. Corrupt cops get fabulous bribes, and corruption therefore runs rampant.
WEX Legal DictionaryPersons who fit “drug courier profiles” may be detained and harassed by the police, although such profiles include getting off the plane early, late, or in the middle as an element of the profile. Infrared sensors spy into people’s homes, with no probable cause. Except in the home, the Fourth Amendment’s probable cause requirement has been mostly abolished by a “law and order” Supreme Court. Under forfeiture laws, billions of dollars of private property have been seized from persons who have never been charged, let alone convicted of any crime. Pre-trial detention, a gross contradiction of the presumption of innocence, has become routine. Citizens traveling on busses, on trains, or in private cars are liable to be pulled over and searched by police and drug-sniffed by police dogs for no reason at all. Urinalysis has become a routine condition of initial or continued employment, and the medical privacy of many persons taking lawful prescription medication has been compromised as a result. Stalinesque “Drug Abuse Resistance Education” programs in the schools encourage children to turn in their parents for illegal drug possession. Attractive young police officers pretend to be high school students, and pester socially awkward teenagers into selling them drugs. Punishment for crime has become grotesquely disproportionate to the offense, as teenagers in possession of $1,500 worth of LSD are sent to prison for longer terms than kidnappers and arsonists. America has a higher imprisonment rate than any other nation in the world, and yet violent criminals serve less and less time in prison as America’s rapidly expanding prison industry takes in more and more young people convicted of drug offenses. The United States Army is conducting domestic law enforcement operations in California and Oregon; the National Guard has been turned into a militarized drug police. Wiretapping has never been more common. Financial privacy has vanished as banks must report currency transactions; car dealers must report customers who buy with cash.
"They don't have to convict you. They don't even have to charge you with a crime. But they have your property. "
--Henry Hyde, as quoted in CNN Article
Forfeiture, the government seizure of property connected to illegal activity, has been a major weapon in the Federal government's "war on drugs" since the mid-eighties. Two recent developments, however, have called attention to the darker side of this practice: a decision by New York City's Mayor, Rudolph Guiliani, to deploy forfeiture against drunk drivers, and a House-approved bill that would, if signed into law, drastically narrow the scope of the federal forfeiture statutes. Forfeiture is a potent deterent, as well as a revenue source on which law enforcement has grown increasingly dependent. However, it brings with it far fewer procedural safeguards than the criminal law.
In the words of former President George Bush, "Asset forfeiture laws allow the government to take the ill-gotten gains of drug kingpins and use them to put more cops on the streets." New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir invoked deterence when he said, "We believe that ... the threat of civil forfeiture and the possibility of losing one's car, have served to reduce the number of motorists who are willing to take the chance of being caught driving drunk." On the other hand, a civil liberties group has filed suit challenging the legality and constitutionality of the New York City program. Citing some of the same constitutional concerns, the House passed a Bill that would drastically curtail the federal operation of the law.
Concerned about the the broad effect of federal forfeiture laws, Henry Hyde (R-Ill., House Judiciary Committee Chairman) and John Conyers (D-Mich., the senior Democrat on the Committee) teamed up to introduce the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act in a rare display of bipartisan unity. The Representatives were concerned about the problem of police using seized property or funds to finance their own operations. As Bob Barr (R-Ga.) put it, "In many jurisdictions, it has become a monetary tail wagging the law enforcement dog." Testifying before the Judiciary Committee, Willie Jones of Nashville, TN, gave an example of this abuse. Engaged in the landscaping business, Mr. Jones planned to buy a shrubbery in Houston, TX. Nurseries prefer cash from out-of-town buyers, so Mr. Jones planned to go there with $9,000 in cash. Officers detained him at the airport: suspicious of the large amount of cash, they accused him of being involved in drug-related activities. They eventually let him go, but they kept the money, and refused to even give him a receipt for it. Because he did not have 10% of the money seized to put up as a bond, he could not afford to challenge the seizure in the usual way. Disturbed by this and other similar stories of excess, the House members voted to approve H.R. 1658 to curb this abuse. The Clinton administration said that the bill would have a negative impact on the war on drugs. The House soundly rejected an administration-favored alternative, however -- supporters of H.R. 1658 said the alternative bill would expand the federal power, not narrow it.
Most forfeiture activity occurs under Federal law, and most of that is connected to the traffic in illegal drugs. The Department of Justice established the National Assets Seizure and Forfeiture Fund in 1985 and realized $27 million from drug-related forfeitures that year. By 1992 the total take had climbed to $875 million. Many states followed suit by establishing their own civil forfeiture programs. Cities and other municipal governments have cooperated in forfeiture actions under both Federal and state drug laws. They have used such laws on their own to deal with local concerns ranging from unsafe housing to prostitution, and now for the problem of drunk driving.
The authority to seize property in this way is not inherent. Rather, it is established by statute. It is constrained by those authorizing laws and by the U.S. Constitution. The expansion of forfeiture activity has not gone on without Constitutional challenge. The U.S. Supreme Court has heard at least half a dozen forfeiture cases during the nineties, but its rulings have not done much to rein in the practice. This short survey of the law of forfeiture draws upon these Court decisions. Its introduction to the essential statutory provisions focuses on the Federal statutes. State and local provisions tend to be quite similar.
Forfeiture takes two distinct forms -- criminal and civil. Nearly all contemporary forfeiture involves the civil variety. Criminal forfeiture operates as punishment for a crime. It, therefore, requires a conviction, following which the state takes the assets in question from the criminal. Civil forfeiture rests on the idea (a legal fiction) that the property itself, not the owner, has violated the law. Thus, the proceeding is directed against the res, or the thing involved in some illegal activity specified by statute. Unlike criminal forfeiture, in rem forfeiture does not require a conviction or even an official criminal charge against the owner. This is the source of its attractiveness to law enforcement, and its threat to those concerned about abuse or circumvention of Constitutional protections.