New Jersey recently received poor marks in a nationwide report that examined how each state addresses civil asset forfeiture. Although researchers praised New Jersey for recent legislation that increased forfeiture transparency, they also called on state lawmakers to make additional reforms, including the outright abolishment of civil forfeiture proceedings. Ultimately, this resulted in a “D” rating for the state of New Jersey.
What is Civil Forfeiture?
Civil forfeiture permits law enforcement authorities to confiscate an individual’s property without ever charging him or her with a crime. Most states allow civil forfeiture, including New Jersey.
New Jersey’s Civil Forfeiture Rating
According to the researchers who compiled the report, state and federal civil forfeiture laws have shown little improvement since their last study in 2015. The researchers claim that most civil forfeiture laws give law enforcement financial incentives to pursue property over justice.
In 2020, New Jersey updated its civil forfeiture laws. The bills making the changes, which received bipartisan support in both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature, updated New Jersey’s procedures for certain types of asset forfeiture proceedings. Most importantly, New Jersey law now requires a criminal conviction in order for law enforcement to seize an individual’s property in most types of cases. The sponsor of one of the bills that made the changes expressed the opinion that New Jersey’s then-existing civil forfeiture laws were unconstitutional violations of due process.
New Jersey Civil Forfeiture Statistics
According to the report, state and federal authorities nationwide have forfeited approximately $68.8 billion in personal assets since 2000. And in New Jersey, law enforcement agencies have collected roughly $349 million from asset forfeitures within the past 20 years.
New Mexico Gets a Passing Grade
The highest-ranking state in the report was New Mexico, which received an “A” for its approach to civil forfeiture. In 2015, the state eliminated civil forfeitures and transferred all forfeiture proceeds to the state’s general fund. In addition, according to researchers, the state’s approach pokes holes in the argument that civil forfeiture deters crime—New Mexico’s crime rates have remained steady since its elimination of civil forfeiture. This has led researchers to assert that the elimination of civil forfeiture does not sacrifice public safety.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Civil Forfeiture Attorney
If you are a victim of civil forfeiture, you need a group of experienced civil forfeiture attorneys on your side. At Rosenblatt Law, we find it unacceptable when citizens are deprived of their property rights through the process of civil forfeiture. Our 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, please contact our team of aggressive civil forfeiture attorneys today to schedule a consultation.