assets | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Assets in criminal law refer to property of all kinds that can be seized or forfeited in criminal investigations, including tangible and intangible assets.

In the criminal law context, assets are property of all kinds that are subject to seizure or forfeiture as part of criminal investigations or proceedings. This includes both tangible things, such as real estate, vehicles, and cash, as well as intangible assets, such as stocks, bank accounts, and intellectual property.

In criminal investigations, law enforcement agencies may seek to seize things that are believed to have been obtained through criminal activity, such as drug trafficking or money laundering. Asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to take control of them, which can then be used to fund law enforcement activities or to compensate victims of the crime. This is often a controversial practice, as it can result in the seizure of assets without a criminal conviction and can disproportionately affect low-income individuals.

In addition to asset forfeiture, items may also be subject to seizure as part of a criminal investigation. For example, if a suspect is believed to have used a vehicle to transport drugs, the vehicle may be seized as evidence in the case. Similarly, if a suspect is believed to have used a bank account to launder money, the account may be frozen or seized as part of the investigation.

In some cases, these things may be subject to civil forfeiture, which is a legal process that allows the government to seize property that is believed to have been used in or obtained through criminal activity. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction and is often initiated by law enforcement agencies without criminal charges being filed. Civil asset forfeiture has been criticized for its potential for abuse, as it can result in the seizure of assets without due process.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/04/2023

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