What is Attachment?

Legal Definition
Attachment is a legal process by which a court of law, at the request of a creditor, designates specific property owned by the debtor to be transferred to the creditor, or sold for the benefit of the creditor. A wide variety of legal mechanisms are employed by debtors to prevent the attachment of their assets. For example, a declaration of bankruptcy will severely limit the ability of creditors to attach the property of the debtor. Many jurisdictions have a homestead exemption or other property exemptions which limit the ability of creditors to attach the debtor's primary residence, vehicle, and/or personal effects..
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
An attachment is a court order seizing specific property. Attachment is used both as a pre-trial provisional remedy and to enforce a final judgment.

Sometimes, courts attach a defendant's property as a provisional remedy to prevent the defendant from making herself judgment-proof. For example, a court might attach part of a defendant's bank account to prevent her from transferring all of her money to an off-shore account. In all but the most exceptional cases, courts must hold a hearing and follow other procedural safeguards before ordering attachment as a provisional remedy. See Provisional Remedies; Due Process.

Courts often attach debtors' property to help pay their creditors, either by directly transferring the property to the creditors, or by selling it and giving the creditors the proceeds. See Debtor and Creditor Law.

Quasi in rem subtype 2 jurisdiction is sometimes called "attachment jurisdiction." See quasi in rem.
Legal Definition
Crim. law, practice. A writ requiring a sheriff to apprehend a particular person, who has been guilty of. a contempt of court, and to bring the offender before the court. Tidd's Pr. Index, h. t.; Grab. Pr. 555.

2. It may be awarded by the court upon a bare suggestion, though generally an oath stating what contempt has been committed is required, or on their own knowledge without indictment or information. An attachment may be issued against officers of the court for disobedience or contempt of their rules and orders, for disobedience of their process, and for disturbing them in their lawful proceedings. Bac. Ab. h. t. A. in the nature of a civil execution, and it was therefore held it could not be executed on Sunday; 1 T. R. 266; Cowper, 394; Willes, R. 292, note (b); yet, in. one case, it was decided, that it was so far criminal, that it could not be granted in England on the affirmation of a Quaker. Stra. 441. See 5 Halst. 63; 1 Cowen, 121, note; Bac. Ab. h. t.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Remedies. A writ issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, commanding the sheriff or other proper officer to seize any property; credit, or right, belonging to the defendant, in whatever hands the same may be found, to satisfy the demand which the plaintiff has against him.

2. This writ always issues before judgment, and is intended to compel an appearance in this respect it differs from an execution. In some of the states this process can be issued only against absconding debtors, or those who conceal themselves; in others it is issued in the first instance, so that the property attached may respond to the exigency of the writ, and satisfy the judgment.

3. There are two kinds of attachment in Pennsylvania, the foreign attachment, and the domestic attachment. l. The foreign attachment is a mode of proceeding by a creditor against the property of his debtor, when the debtor is out of the jurisdiction of the state, and is not an inhabitant of the same. The object of this process is in the first instance to compel an appearance by the debtor, although his property may even eventually be made liable to the amount of the plaintiff Is claim. It will be proper to consider, 1. by whom it be issued; 2. against what property 3. mode of proceeding. 1. The plaintiff must be a creditor of the defendant; the claim of the plaintiff need not, however, be technically a debt, but it may be such on which an action of assumpsit would lie but an attachment will not lie for a demand which arises ex delicto; or when special bail would not be regularly required. Serg. on Att. 51. 2. The writ of attachment may be issued against the real and personal estate of any person not residing within the commonwealth, and not being within the county in which such writ may issue, at the time. of the issuing thereof. And proceedings may be had against persons convicted of crime, and sentenced to imprisonment. 3. The writ of attachment is in general terms, not specifying in the body of it the name of the garnishee, or the property to be attached, but commanding the officer to attach the defendant, by all and singular his goods and chattels, in whose hands or possession soever the same may be found in his bailiwick, so that he be and appear before the court at a certain time to answer, &c. The foreign attachment is issued solely for the benefit of the plaintiff.

4. – 2. The domestic attachment is issued by the court of common pleas of the county in which any debtor, being an inhabitant of the commonwealth, may reside; if such debtor shall have absconded from the place of his usual abode within the same, or shall have remained absent from the commonwealth, or shall have confined himself to his own house, or concealed himself elsewhere, with a design, in either case, to defraud his creditors. It is issued on an oath or affirmation, previously made by a creditor of such person, or by some one on his bebalf, of the truth of his debt, and of the facts upon which the attachment may be founded. Any other creditor of such person, upon affidavit of his debt as aforesaid, may suggest his name upon the record, and thereupon such creditor may proceed to prosecute his said writ, if the person suing the same shall refuse or neglect to proceed thereon, or if he fail to establish his right to prosecute the same, as a creditor of the defendant. The property attached is vested in trustees to be appointed by the court, who are, after giving six months public notice of their appointment, to distribute the assets attached among the creditors under certain regulations prescribed by the act of assembly. Perishable goods way be sold under an order of the court, both under a foreign and domestic attachment. Vide Serg. on Attachments Whart. Dig. title Attachment.

5. By the code of practice of Louisiana, an attachment in the hands of third person is declared to be a mandate which a creditor obtains from a competent officer, commanding the seizure of any property, credit or right, belonging to his debtor, in whatever hands they may be found, to satisfy the demand which he intends to bring against him. A creditor may obtain such attachment of the property of his debtor, in the following cases. 1. When such debtor is about permanently leaving the state, without there being a possibility, in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, of obtaining or executing judgment against him previous to, his departure; or when such debtor has already left the state never again to return. 2. When such debtor resides out of the state. 3. When he conceals himself to avoid being cited or forced to answer to the suit intended to be brought against him. Articles 239, 240.

6. By the local laws of some of the New England states, and particularly of the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, personal property and real estate may be attached upon mesne process to respond the exigency of the writ, and satisfy the judgment. In such cases it is the common practice for the officer to bail the goods attached, to some person, who is usually a friend of the debtor, upon an express or implied agreement on his part, to have them forthcoming on demand, or in time to respond the judgment, when the execution thereon shall be issued. Story on Bailm. 124. As to the rights and duties of the officer or bailor in such cases, and as to the rights and duties of the bailee, who is conmmonly called the receiptor, see 2 Mass. 514; 9 Mass. 112 11 Mass. 211; 6 Johns. R. 195 9 Mass. 104, 265; 10 Mass. 125 15 Mass. 310; 1 Pick. R. 232, 389. See Metc. & Perk. Dig. tit. Absent and Absconding Debtors.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
The act or process of inking, apprehending or seizing persons or property, by virtue of a writ, summons or other judicial order, and bringing the same into the custody of the law; used either for the purpose of bringing a person before the court, of acquiring jurisdiction over the property seized, to compel an appearance, to furnish security for debt or costs, or to arrest a fund in the hands of a third person who may become llable to pay it over. Also the writ or other process for the accomplishment of the purposes above enumerated, this being the more common use of the word. Of persons. A writ issued by a court of record, commanding the sheriff to bring before it a person who has been guilty of contempt of court, either in neglect or abuse of its process or of subordinate powers. 3 BL Comm. 280 ; 4 Bl. Comm. 283; Burbach v. Light Co., 119 Wis. 384, 96 N. W. 829. Of property. A species of mesne process, by which a writ is issued at the institution or during the progress of an action, commanding the sheriff to seize the property, rights, credits, or effects of the defendant to be held as security for the satisfaction of such judgment as the plaintiff may recover. It is principally used against absconding, concealed, or fraudulent debtors. U. S. Capsule Co., v. Isaacs, 23 Ind. App. 533, 55 N. E. 832; Campbell v. Keys, 130 Mich. 127, 89 N. W. 720; Rempe v. Ravens, 68 Ohio St 113, 67 N. E. 282. To give jurisdiction. Where the defendant is a non-resident, or beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the court, his goods or land within the territory may be seized upon process of attachment; whereby he will be compelled to enter an appearance, or the court acquires jurisdiction so far as to dispose of the property attached. This is sometimes called "foreign attachment." Domestic and foreign. In some jurisdictions it is common to give the name "domestic attachment" to one issuing against a resident debtor, (upon the special ground of fraud, intention to abscond, etc.,) and to designate an attachment against a non-resident, or his property, as "foreign." Longwell v. Hartwell, 164 Pa. 533, 30 Atl. 495; Biddle v. Girard Nat Bank, 109 Pa. 356. But the term "foreign attachment" more properly belongs to the process otherwise familiarly known as "garnishment" It was a pe-chliar and ancient remedy open to creditors within the jurisdiction of the city of London, by which they were enabled to satisfy their own debts by attaching or seizing the money or goods of the debtor in the hands of a third person within the jurisdiction of the city. Welsh v. Blackwell, 14 N. J. Law, 346. This power and process survive in modern law, in all common-law jurisdictions, and are variously denominated "garnishment," "trustee process," or "factorising."
See also
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
The seizing and holding of a defendant or his property in the custody of the law, pending litigation. See 137 Am. St. Rep. 876.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary