UPDATE POSTED BELOW.
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Here is how the US Department Of Justice describes the forfeiture program:
Asset Forfeiture Program
The Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Program is a nationwide law enforcement program that continues to be an effective and powerful strategy in the fight against crime.
Purpose: The primary mission of the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security. This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society. Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.
Scope: The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program encompasses the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate federal crimes. Forfeiture may proceed under either administrative or judicial processes. Further, the DOJ program applies only to cases developed by enforcement officials in certain agencies of the Federal Government.
State and local government agencies and some international law enforcement agencies may have similar efforts, operating under the authority of international, local or state laws. Those efforts are not part of the US Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program.
Types of Forfeiture
Criminal forfeiture is an action brought as a part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. 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. If the jury finds the property forfeitable, the court issues an order of forfeiture.
For forfeitures pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), as well as money laundering and obscenity statutes, there is an ancillary hearing for third parties to assert their interest in the property. Once the interests of third parties are addressed, the court issues a final forfeiture order.
Civil judicial forfeiture is an in rem (against the property) action brought in court against the property. The property is the defendant and no criminal charge against the owner is necessary.
Administrative forfeiture is an in rem action that permits the federal seizing agency to forfeit the property without judicial involvement. The authority for a seizing agency to start an administrative forfeiture action is found in the Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C. § 1607. Property that can be administratively forfeited is: merchandise the importation of which is prohibited; a conveyance used to import, transport, or store a controlled substance; a monetary instrument; or other property that does not exceed $500,000 in value.
[Hat Tips: Jeff Abbas, Postville Radio KPVL FM, for the press release, FirstGenerationBavarianAmerican for the DOJ forfeiture links.]