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Forcible possession; a grasping, snatching, or putting in possession.

In Criminal Law, a seizure is the forcible taking of property by a government law enforcement official from a person who is suspected of violating, or is known to have violated, the law. A Search Warrant usually must be presented to the person before his property is seized, unless the circumstances of the seizure justify a warrantless Search and Seizure. For example, the police may seize a pistol in the coat pocket of a person arrested during a Robbery without presenting a warrant because the search and seizure is incident to a lawful arrest. Certain federal and state laws provide for the seizure of particular property that was used in the commission of a crime or that is illegal to possess, such as explosives used in violation of federal law or illegal narcotics.

In the law of civil practice, the term refers to the act performed by an officer of the law under court order when she takes into custody the property of a person against whom a court has rendered a judgment to pay a certain amount of money to another. The property is seized so that it can be sold under the authority of the court to satisfy the judgment. Property can also be seized if a substantial likelihood exists that a defendant is concealing or removing property from the jurisdiction of the court so that in the event a judgment is rendered against her, the property cannot be used to pay the judgment. By attaching or seizing a defendant's property, the court prevents her from perpetrating a Fraud on the courts.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. the taking by law enforcement officers of potential evidence in a criminal case. The constitutional limitations on seizure are the same as for search. Thus, evidence seized without a search warrant or without "probable cause" to believe a crime has been committed and without time to get a search warrant, cannot be admitted in court, nor can evidence traced through the illegal seizure. (See: search and seizure, search warrant, fruit of the poisonous tree)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

SEIZURE, practice. The act of taking possession of the property of a person condemned by the judgment of a competent tribunal, to pay a certain sum of money, by a sheriff, constable, or other officer, lawfully authorized thereto, by virtue of an execution, for the purpose of having such property sold according to law to satisfy the judgment. By seizure is also meant the taking possession of goods for a violation of a public law; as the taking possession of a ship for attempting an illicit trade. 2 Cranch, 18 7; 6 Cowen, 404; 4 Wheat. 100; 1 Gallis. 75; 2 Wash. C. C. 127, 567.
     2. The seizure is complete as soon as the goods are within the power of the officer. 3 Rawle's Rep. 401; 16 Johns. Rep. 287; 2 Nott & McCord, 392; 2 Rawle's Rep. 142; Wats. on Sher. 172; Com. Dig. Execution, C 5.
     3. The taking of part of the goods in a house, however, by virtue of a fieri facias in the name of the whole, is a good seizure of all. 8 East, R. 474. As the seizure must be made by virtue of an execution, it is evident that it cannot be made after the return day. 2 Caine's Rep. 243; 4 John. R. 450. Vide Door; House; Search Warrant.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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