Civil asset forfeiture is one of three avenues the federal government can use to take possession of seized property or money believed to be part of illegal activity.
The vast majority of forfeitures are called "administrative forfeitures," which occur when various federal agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, postal inspectors, immigration, customs and even the Department of Agriculture, seize property they believe to be tainted by drugs or other criminal endeavors.
Administrative forfeitures occur when the seizures are uncontested, and they can be filed on any property or cash amount valued at less than $500,000.
If a claim is made on an administrative forfeiture, a civil forfeiture case is filed against the money or property in U.S. District Court.
Assets also can be taken through criminal forfeiture proceedings, in which defendants lose property or cash involved with or gained from criminal activity that leads to a conviction.
— Mark Freeman