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Prize is a term used in admiralty law to refer to equipment, vehicles, and vessels captured during armed conflict. The most common use of prize in this sense is the capture of an enemy ship and its cargo as a prize of war. In the past, it was common that the capturing force would be allotted a share of the worth of the captured prize. Nations often granted letters of marque which would entitle private parties to capture enemy property, usually ships. Once the ship was secured on friendly territory, it would be made the subject of a prize case, an in rem proceeding in which the court determined the status of the condemned property and the manner in which it was to be disposed of. Due to changes in the laws of war and the nature of warfare in general, prize litigation is very rare or nonexistent today. For example, the German commerce raiding during World War I obtained several ships as prizes.

There have been several abortive attempts to form an International Prize Court to hear appeals regarding captures of prizes.

Municipal law

United States

Prize law under United States municipal law is codified at . As noted above, due to changes in the nature of naval warfare, the U.S.marker courts have not tried any prize cases under these statutes.

See also


  1. Lehmann Chapter VI

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