New Jersey recently passed a law that requires comprehensive disclosure and transparency for the state’s civil asset forfeiture system. Under New Jersey’s civil forfeiture system, prosecutors and law enforcement authorities can use the civil courts to confiscate property that they believe is associated in some way with criminal activity.
Under the law, county prosecutors must submit quarterly reports to the Attorney General that detail local forfeiture and seizure activities by law enforcement. A previous version of the law was vetoed by the governor in 2017.
Although civil forfeiture is considered by many to be a controversial practice, law enforcement agencies and elected officials have defended it as an effective method of funding equipment upgrades and community programs with the proceeds of criminal activity. However, despite this justification, state law currently allows prosecutors to confiscate property of a specific value even without a criminal conviction.
Proponents of the new civil forfeiture law claim that the practice has a high potential for abuse. In addition, the practice is very difficult for defendants to challenge in court, meaning that most confiscated property ultimately remains with the state.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office currently produces annual reports detailing forfeiture activity, but these reports are lacking in certain areas. For example, the current annual reports don’t disclose which agencies are seizing assets and from whom the assets are seized. Under the new law, prosecutors must specify the agency involved in a confiscation, provide details regarding the property that was seized, explain the reason for the seizure, and disclose whether the property owner was ultimately convicted of the crime with which he or she was charged.
In addition to the passage of the new seizure tracking law, New Jersey recently passed a law that requires criminal convictions for seized assets with values under certain amounts. This additional law makes New Jersey the 16th state to require that a defendant be convicted of a crime for the state to confiscate most types of property. Other states, such as New Mexico, North Carolina, and Nebraska only use the criminal law system to confiscate cash or property. Ultimately, opponents of civil forfeiture in New Jersey hope that a similar system will replace New Jersey’s civil forfeiture process.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Civil Forfeiture Attorney
At Rosenblatt Law, we understand the difficulties associated with losing one’s property via civil forfeiture, and we believe it is important to protect the rights of persons that are deprived of their property rights through this unfair process. Our experienced and knowledgeable civil forfeiture attorneys routinely represent clients who have been affected by New Jersey’s civil forfeiture process, and we have a strong reputation in New Jersey for protecting the rights of our clients. Therefore, if you are a victim of civil forfeiture and ready to fight back, please contact us as soon as possible to schedule a consultation.