Confiscation, from the Latin confiscato 'join to the fiscus, i.e. transfer to the tresaury' is a legal seizure without compensation by a government or other public authority.
As a punishment, it differs from a fine in that it is not primarily meant to match the crime but rather reattributes the criminal's ill-gotten spoils (often as a complement to the actual punishment for the crime itself; still common with various kinds of contraband, such as protected living organisms) to the community or even aims to rob him of his socio-economic status, in the extreme case reducing him to utter poverty, or if he is condemned to death even denies his inheritance to the legal heirs, thus punishing the entire bloodline (in the primitive logic of the blood feud). Such rich prizes often proved too much temptation for the authorities to refrain from abuse out of greed. A fine is money paid as a financial punishment for the commission of minor crimes or as the settlement of a claim. ... Contraband consists of items of which possession may be illegal, depending on the variety and the country or the age or sex of the possessor. ...
For legal confiscation in the United States, see search and seizure. Search and seizure is a legal tool of US law whereby police who suspect that a crime has been committed may do a search of the property. ...
Meanwhile limited confiscation is often in function of the crime, the rationale being that the criminal must be denied the fruits of their fault, while the crime itself is rather punished in some other, independent way, such as physical punishments or even a concurring fine.
Originally, in Roman law, it was the seizure and transfer of private property to the fiscus by the emperor; hence the appropriation, under legal authority, of private property to the state.
In the United States among the "war measures" during the American Civil War, acts were passed in 1861 and 1862 confiscating, respectively, property used for "insurrectionary purposes" and the property generally of those engaged in rebellion.
Confiscated country clubs have been turned into "police training facilities." Confiscated cash and expensive stereos and TVs tend to disappear quickly from police lockers.
Pending federal medical-forfeiture legislation allows the government to confiscate all of the business or personal assets of doctors who "overcharge" or who prescribe "unnecessary treatments" with the government defining after the fact what is a proper price and a necessary treatment.
In June, the Court rejected the Department of Justice's contention that confiscation is not punishment and said that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure does apply to confiscation cases.
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