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The Champion

January-February 2018 , Page 38 

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Applying the Brakes on a Runaway Train: Forfeiture and Recent Supreme Court Developments

By Steven L. Kessler

Forfeiture. Miriam-Webster defines the word as “the act of forfeiting: the loss of property or money because of a breach of a legal obligation.” Relatively straightforward.

But in the legal profession, it is the part of a client’s sentencing that turns some of the finest criminal defense attorneys into frightened first-year law students. Many flee the scene or inform the client to “let the property go” so as not to “complicate” the matter or, as a last resort, retain someone later to deal with the issue. This article discusses some of the basics every attorney should know about forfeiture. It also examines the recent Supreme Court decision in Honeycutt v. United States and its possible ramifications.1 

The Basics

The modern principles of real property ownership stretch back to the Norman Conquest. Even the terms used, such as “fee simple absolute” and “indentured servant,” sound impressively ancient. But as a result of a series of federal criminal statutes, beginnin

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