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To assess; raise; execute; exact; tax; collect; gather; take up; seize. Thus, to levy a tax; to levy a Nuisance; to levy a fine; to levy war; to levy an execution, i.e., to levy or collect a sum of money on an execution.

A seizure. The obtaining of money by legal process through seizure and sale of property; the raising of the money for which an execution has been issued.

A sheriff or other officer of the law can be ordered by a court to make a levy against any property not entitled to an exemption. The court can do this with an order of attachment, by which the court takes custody of the property during pending litigation, or by execution, the process used to enforce a judgment. The order directs the sheriff to take and safely keep all non-exempt property of the defendant found within the county or as much property as is necessary to satisfy the plaintiff's demand plus costs and expenses. The order also directs the sheriff to make a written statement of efforts and to return it to the clerk of the court where the action is pending. This report, called a return, lists all the property seized and the date of seizure.

The sheriff's act in taking custody of the defendant's property is the levy. A levy on real property is generally accomplished by giving the defendant and the general public notice that the defendant's property has been encumbered by the court order. This can be done by filing a notice with the clerk who keeps real estate mortgages and deeds recorded with the county. A levy of tangible Personal Property usually requires actual seizure. If the goods are capable of being moved around, most states insist that the sheriff actually take them into custody or remove them to another place for safekeeping with an independent person. If the property is bulky or cumbersome and removal would be impracticable and expensive, actual seizure is not necessary. The levy can be accomplished by removing an essential piece, such as the pinsetter in a bowling alley, or by services of the court demanding preservation of the property. The order can be served on the defendant or anyone else in possession of the property, and disobedience of it then can be punished as a Contempt of court.

Often the order will permit levy against any property belonging to the defendant, but it will specify seizure of a unique item and allow something else of comparable value to be substituted only if the unusual item cannot be found.

An attempt to attach a debtor's property is effective only after a levy, and from that time on there is a lien on the attached property. This gives the plaintiff some security that he or she will be able to collect what is owed and, if first in time, establishes the plaintiff's priority at the head of the line of the defendant's creditors who might subsequently seek a levy upon a debtor's property. It can strengthen the plaintiff's bargaining position if the plaintiff is trying to settle the dispute with the defendant, and it may even create jurisdiction for the court over the defendant, but only to the extent of the value of the property subject to levy.

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


1) v. to seize (take) property upon a writ of execution (an order to seize property) issued by the court to pay a money judgment granted in a lawsuit. The levy is actually made by a sheriff or other official at the request of the holder of the judgment (the winner in the lawsuit), and the property will be sold at a sheriff's sale to provide money to satisfy the unpaid judgment. 2) v. the act of a governmental legislative body, such as a board of supervisors or commissioners assessing a tax on all property, all sales, business licenses or anything or transaction which may be taxed. Thus, the county "levies" a tax on businesses. 3) n. the seizure of property to satisfy a judgment. (See: writ of execution, creditor's rights, sheriff's sale)

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


1 to seize or attach property in accordance with the judgment of a court.
2 the act of imposing and collecting a tax or the money so raised.
3 the conscription of troops for service or a person conscripted in this way.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

LEVY, practice. A seizure (q.v.) the raising of the money for which an execution has been issued.
     2. In order to make a valid levy on personal property, the sheriff must have it within his power and control, or at least within his view, and if, having it so, he makes a levy upon it, it will be good if followed up afterwards within a reasonable time, by his taking possession in such manner as to apprize everybody of the fact of its having been taken into execution. 3 Rawle R. 405-6; 1 Whart. 377; 2 S. & R. 142; 1 Wash C. C. R. 29; 6 Watts, 468; 1 Whart. 116. The usual mode of making levy upon real estate, is to describe the land which has been seised under the execution, by metes and bounds, as in a deed of conveyance. 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3391.
     3. It is a general rule, that when a sufficient levy has been made, the officer cannot make a second. 12 John. R. 208; 8 Cowen, R. 192.

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