In modern U.S. usage, forfeiture is deprivation or destruction of a right in consequence of the non-performance of some obligation or condition. It can be accidental, and therefore is distinguished from waiver; see waiver and forfeiture.
Historically, forfeiture of a convict’s land and other assets followed on from conviction for certain serious offences (and thus resulted from criminal activity rather than from a failure to act). A striking illustration of the practical effects of this rule is Giles Corey’s refusal to plead, in the Salem Witch Trials, instead dying under peine forte et dure. By refusing to plead he avoided the jurisdiction of the court and thus avoided conviction and the consequent forfeiture of his estate. Instead it passed to his sons.
In the early 21st century, the United States Government began to seize domain names, on the legal theory that they were property used in criminal activities and thus subject to forfeiture.
- Connellan v. Federal Life & Casualty Co., 134 ME 104 (1935).
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