This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
At common law, upon his attainder of high treason, one forfeited to the crown all his freehold estates, and, in case of petit treason and felony, his freehold estates for life, and his chattel interests absolutely.6 In this country the effect of a conviction of crime is rarely to forfeit all the land of the wrongdoer, the statutes of most states providing explicitly that no conviction of crime shall work forfeiture of estate or corruption of blood, though in two or three there may, it seems, be a forfeiture during the life of the offender.7
If an alien undertakes to acquire land in violation of the law of the particular state, he may, unless protected by the terms of a treaty with his government, be deprived of such land, and a forfeiture to the state be compelled.8
During the American Revolution, many of the colonial governments confiscated the lands of persons supporting the royal cause,9 and, during the Civil War, acts confiscating the property of persons aiding the Confederate cause were passed by congress, the confiscation, however, in the case of land, being limited to the term of the offender's natural life.10 The confiscation of enemies' property is, at the present day, not generally approved by writers on international law.11
5. See 2 Blackst. Comm. 274, 293; 2 Kent's Comm. 61; Read v. Read, 5 Call (Va.) 207.
6. 4 Blackst. Comm. 381-385.
7. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec.Sec. 143, 1162.
8. Pout, Sec. 597.
9. Sabine, Loyalists of American Revolution, 75 et seq.
10. Jenkins v. Collard, 145 U. S. 546, 36 L. Ed. 812.
11. Lawrence's Wheaton, In-ternat. Law, 596 et seq. Lawrence, Internat. Law, Sec. 178; Taylor, Internat. Law, Sec. 540.
Occasionally the statute, in restricting the power of a corporation to acquire land, provides, expressly or impliedly, that land acquired by the corporation in violation of law shall be forfeited to the state.12 In the absence of such a provision for forfeiture, though the state may annul the transfer or dissolve the corporation, it does not have any right to the land which the corporation thus wrongfully acquired.13
Land used for purposes which violate the internal revenue laws in certain ways become subject to forfeiture, by express provision of statute, to the United States government.14
At common law, the proceedings on the part of the state to enforce a forfeiture as well as an escheat was by "office found" or "inquest of office," this being a proceeding, by the aid of a jury, which was made use of in any cases in which the crown asserted a claim to lands or goods.15 There is, in some states, a statutory proceeding for the enforcement of such rights, but an inquest of office as at common law, or, it seems, an action of ejectment, would be sufficient to try the rights of the state to the land in any such case.
- To individual. A tenant of a particular estate usually holds it subject to certain implied conditions. At common law, a life tenant held the land subject to an implied condition that he should not make a feoffment thereof in fee simple, since this divested the whole fee-simple title, and by so doing he forfeited his estate. This ground of forfeiture is now obsolete, since a modern conveyance passes only such interest as the grantor has.16 A life tenant may, however, at the present day, forfeit his interest by the commission of acts of waste, the statute frequently containing a provision to this effect.17 A tenant under a lease may also forfeit his tenancy by his disclaimer of his landlord's title, and, in some states, by the use of the premises for an illegal purpose.18
12. See Leazure v. Hillegas, 7 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 313; Com. v. New York, L. E. & W. R. Co., 132 Pa. St. 591, 7 L. R. A. 634, 19 Atl. 291, 139 Pa. St. 457, 21 Atl. 528; Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Com., 151 Ky. 325, 151 S. W. 934, 151 Ky. 774, 152 S. W. 976.
13. Union Nat. Bank v. Matthews, 98 U. S. 621, 25 L. Ed. 188; National Bank of Commerce v. Licking Valley Land & Mining Co., 15 Ky. L. Rep. 211, 22 S. W. 881; Com. v. New York, L. E. & W. R. Co., 132 Pa. St. 591, 7 L. R. A. 634, 19 Atl. 291, 139 Pa. St. 457, 21 Atl. 528; Fayette Land Co. v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 93 Va. 274, 24 S. E. 1016.
14. Rev. St. U. S. Sec. 3400.
15. 3 Blackst. Comm. 358.
The subject of the forfeiture of an estate in land for breach of an express condition subsequent has been before considered.19
16. Ante, Sec. 33.
17. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec. 1332.
18. 2 Tiffany, Landl'd & Ten. Sec.Sec. 192, 193. See ante, Sec. 77.
19. Ante, Sec.Sec. 82-88.