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confiscationthe taking away of the property of another, usually by the state. In relation to the acquisition of land and the like for state projects, most systems have procedures allowing for appeal and always with compensation. Customs and Excise authorities can confiscate certain goods where the proper duty has not been paid. In criminal cases, confiscation or forfeiture is now much more common than once was the case, with statutory powers being available to penalize serious criminals in a much more effective way than handing out sentences of imprisonment. So it is now possible in the UK for drug dealers to lose the houses bought with the proceeds of their trade and for the getaway car in a bank robbery to be taken and sold. There is, of course, no compensation in such cases, but there is usually a right of appeal. European HUMAN RIGHTS LAW (see EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS) means that the right to property and if appropriate the right to a fair trial or hearing are taken into account. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has approved confiscation legislation which sets up a reverse burden of proof in non-criminal confiscation proceedings.
CONFISCATION. The act by which the estate, goods or chattels of a person
who has been guilty of some crime, or who is a public enemy, is declared to
be forfeited for the benefit of the public treasury. Domat, Droit Public,
liv. 1, tit. 6, s. 2, n. 1. When property is forfeited as a punishment for
the commission of crime, it is usually called a forfeiture. 1 Bl. Com. 299.
2. It is a general rule that the property of the subjects of an enemy found in the country may be appropriated by the government, without notice, unless there be a treaty to the contrary. 1 Gallis. R. 563; 8 Dall. R. 199; N. Car. Cas. 79. It has been frequently provided by treaty that foreign subjects should be permitted to remain and continue their business, notwithstanding a rupture between the governments, so long as they conducted themselves innocently and when there was no such treaty, such a liberal permission has been announced in the very declaration of war. Vattel, liv. 3, c. 4, Sec. 63. Sir Michael Poster, (Discourses on High Treason, p. 185, 6, mentions several instances of such declarations by the king of Great Britain; and he says that aliens were thereby enabled to acquire personal chattels and to maintain actions for the recovery of their personal rights, in as full a manner as alien friends. 1 Kent, Coin. 57.
3. In the United States, the broad principle has been assumed "that war gives to the sovereign full right to take the persons and confiscate the property of the enemy, wherever found. The mitigations of this rigid rule, which the policy of modern times has introduced into practice, will more or less affect the exercise of this right, but cannot impair the right itself." 8 Cranch, 122-3. Commercial nations have always considerable property in the possession of their neighbors: and when war breaks out the question, what shall be done with enemies property found in the country, is one rather of policy than of law, and is properly addressed to the consideration of the legislature, and not to courts of law. The strict right of confiscation exists in congress; and without a legislative act authorizing the confiscation of enemies' property, it cannot be condemned. 8 Cranch, 128, 129. See Chit. Law of Nations, c. 3; Marten's Law of Nat. lib. 8, c. 3, s. 9; Burlamaqui, Princ. of Pol. Law, part 4, c. 7; Vattel, liv. 3, c. 4, Sec. 63.
4. The claim of a right to confiscate debts, contracted by individuals in time of peace, and which remain due to subjects of the enemy in time of war, rests very much upon the same principles as that concerning the enemy's tangible property, found in the country at the commencement of the war. But it is the universal practice to forbear to seize and confiscate debts and credits. 1 Kent, Com. 64, 5; vide 4 Cranch, R. 415 Charlt. 140; 2 Harr. & John. 101, 112, 471 6 Cranch, R. 286; 7 Conn. R. 428: 2 Tayl. R. 115; 1 Day, R. 4; Kirby, R. 228, 291 C. & N. 77, 492.