New Jersey recently became the 16th state to provide some measure of protection to individuals against civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement authorities to confiscate a person’s property even if they never charge him or her with a crime. Under the new law, the authorities will have to secure a criminal conviction in order to confiscate property valued at or below $10,000, or under $1,000 in cash. The authorities will have to return any property that is seized under those amounts if the owner is acquitted or is not charged in the first place.
Critics of the new law, however, have pointed out that it has its limitations. First, the state’s new conviction thresholds are among the lowest in the nation. In addition, the new law doesn’t apply to cases in which no one has filed a claim for the property that was seized. Also, the law doesn’t address New Jersey’s financial incentives for law enforcement authorities to seize property. Under current New Jersey law, once confiscated property has been auctioned off, local law enforcement agencies can keep up to 100% of the proceeds.
However, even under the new framework, civil forfeiture maintains a two-track system. Defendants who are subject to the law face prosecution in criminal court and property confiscation in civil court. Since civil forfeiture cases take place outside the criminal process, property owners aren’t entitled to the same due process protections as they are in criminal cases. With criminal forfeiture, however, individuals receive many of the due process protections afforded to criminal defendants.
Perhaps most importantly, under some civil forfeiture frameworks, a property owner must file a claim for his or her property and bears the burden of proving its innocent character. Otherwise, the property owner risks permanently losing it. Critics of civil forfeiture, however, claim that bureaucratic red tape, the cost of litigation, and possible retaliation by law enforcement deter most property owners from going to civil court following a civil forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture, on the other hand, shifts many of the burdens from the suspect onto the state. When a prosecutor files a complaint for criminal forfeiture, the suspect isn’t required to file his or her own claim for the confiscated property. In addition, if the government fails to act, the suspect’s property won’t be forfeited. Thus, many critics of civil forfeiture advocate for a system that is similar to criminal forfeiture.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Civil Forfeiture Attorney
At Rosenblatt Law, we believe it is important to protect the rights of persons that are deprived of their property rights through the process of civil forfeiture. Our aggressive and experienced civil forfeiture attorneys are well-versed in the area of civil forfeiture law, and we have a strong reputation in New Jersey for protecting the property rights of our clients. Therefore, if you are a victim of civil forfeiture and want to fight back, please contact our team of aggressive civil forfeiture attorneys today to schedule a consultation.