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The "guilty property" theory behind in rem forfeiture (forfeiture of property tainted by crime irrespective of any crime being committed by the property owner) can be traced to the Bible, which describes property being sacrificed to God as a means of atoning for an offense (See Exo. 21:28). In medieval Europe and at common law, this concept evolved into the law of deodand, in which offending property was condemned and confiscated by the church or the Crown in remediation for the harm it had caused.
- Justice Clarence Thomas, United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321, 330, 356 n.5 (1998), at http://laws.findlaw.com/us/000/96-1487.html.