Is confiscating a defendant's car a type of fine?

The government may seize the "instrument of the crime," if the statute so provides.

Question

I heard about a defendant's car and boat being taken by the police. Was this a fine of some sort?

Answer

Technically, confiscation isn't a fine, though it might feel that way to the defendant. The defendant’s property was probably taken as part of a civil forfeiture proceeding, separate from the criminal case, in which the government takes property used as part of criminal activities. For example, cars used by people who hire prostitutes may be forfeited, and the land on which marijuana is grown can also be forfeited under federal law.
Civil forfeiture is not punishment, and therefore forfeiture proceedings do not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy (U.S. v. Ursery, U.S. Sup. Ct. 1996). In other words, a defendant can be convicted of the underlying crime and given the usual punishments, in addition to losing his car, boat, or land.

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