As with most laws, the United States models its laws after the British common law and the United States Congress enacted its own forfeiture laws to aid in the collection of customs duties. In the early years of the United States, the law was used to enforce admiralty laws and combat piracy. In a famous case, the Supreme Court reasoned that a vessel which commits an aggression is treated as the offender, as the guilty instrument or thing to which the forfeiture attaches. The justices opined that forfeiture was the only means of suppressing the offense or wrong. Therefore the claim is against the property and not the alleged offender.
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