Over the past several years, several statutes have been enacted at both the federal and state levels creating forfeiture provisions. Under the federal statutes, there are presently two kinds of forfeitures, civil and criminal. Under the criminal forfeiture statutes, actions are instituted against the person and forfeiture is generally held to only be effective upon entry of the final guilty decree.

Civil forfeiture cases, however, are to be distinguished in that they are generally against the property involved. The property is forfeited at the time the case is filed. Additionally, under some provisions, the forfeiture date relates back to the actual date of the criminal activity. Forfeitures can wipe out the rights of any intervening purchasers or lenders.

There are provisions in the statutes that allow aggrieved innocent third parties to appeal on an equitable basis to the Attorney General for remission or mitigation of the forfeiture. The federal government, however, has been very reluctant to cooperate in forfeiture cases. As a general rule, they believe they have the right to seize property and sell it free and clear of any problems or defects. From a title insurance standpoint, that is not the case.

When dealing with any civil or criminal forfeiture case, you must contact the local office. This is an extremely complex and dangerous area in which to deal. The law is constantly changing through amendments and case law. Typically, all forfeiture statutes are grouped together and referred to as either "Drug Forfeiture Statutes" or "RICO Forfeitures." Remember, however, that in addition to the federal statutes, most states now have equally burdensome forfeiture statutes.

Because of possible constitutional challenges, we will usually not insure a title coming through a seizure or forfeiture. If you have any concerns or dealings in this area, you should contact the local office.