Part of Law enforcement

Civil forfeiture

Civil forfeiture takes away criminal property, such as cash, vehicles and homes, to make Alberta communities safer.

This content doesn’t present legal advice or a statement of law.

For legal details about civil forfeiture in Alberta, consult the Civil Forfeiture Act.

About civil forfeiture

The Alberta government applies for court orders to freeze and forfeit property where there is evidence the property was gained from, or used to carry out, a crime that is profit-motivated or likely to result in bodily injury. Property can include cash, vehicles, real estate, jewelry, bank accounts, and other valuables. 

Police services, the government and the courts all have a role in the civil forfeiture process.

Civil forfeiture takes the profit out of crime and makes crime more difficult by taking away criminals’ tools of the trade, such as:

  • vehicles used to deal drugs
  • houses used as drug labs

The forfeited cash and the funds generated through the sale of forfeited property can be used by the government to:

  • fund grants for community programs to support victims of crime and help prevent crime, including:
    • shelters for victims of family violence
    • gang-reduction programs for at-risk communities
  • support police training and operations
  • recover the civil forfeiture program's operating costs

In certain cases, the government can seek forfeiture through an administrative process. In these cases, a court hearing is not required unless the owner(s) of the property disputes civil forfeiture.

The Civil Forfeiture Act outlines the:

  • government’s authority to conduct civil forfeiture
  • rights of the owner and other people claiming an interest in the property
  • role of the Court

Court hearing

When the owner(s) of the property opposes civil forfeiture, they and Alberta government representatives attend a court hearing.

If the judge finds the property was gained from or used to carry out a crime, the judge can order that the property be:

  • returned to a party claiming an interest in the property who proves they both
    • weren’t involved in the crime, and
    • didn’t know their property was gained from or used to commit a crime
  • returned to a victim of the crime
  • sold, with the proceeds of sale being used to:
    • pay out innocent creditors
    • compensate victims of crime
  • forfeited to the Alberta government, to be used for purposes permitted by the Civil Forfeiture Act, including crime prevention and victims of crime programs

Grants funded

The Alberta government has awarded over $15.7 million in grants to community-based programs.