If you are facing civil forfeiture proceedings, it is important to know your rights. Law enforcement has sweeping power to seize property it suspects is related to a crime, regardless of whether the owner is actually charged with, convicted of, or even associated with the offense. State and federal authorities then have the power to take that property permanently. The best way to protect your property rights is to work with an experienced asset forfeiture attorney.
Rosenblatt Law PC is a premier civil forfeiture defense practice serving clients in Northern New Jersey and the greater New York area. We regularly represent clients and provide co-counsel to criminal defense attorneys on forfeiture law and proceedings. As a former prosecutor, founding attorney Raphael Rosenblatt is well-versed in the applicable federal and state forfeiture laws and recognizes tactics law enforcement uses in civil forfeiture cases.
When you consult with us, you can have confidence, knowing our legal team will aggressively fight to protect your property rights. We have a well-earned reputation as dedicated advocates and learned counsel who know how to fight back against the government intrusion of asset forfeiture. Please contact our office today to speak with our civil forfeiture attorneys.
What is Civil Forfeiture?
State and federal laws allow law enforcement to seize property suspected of being related to or derived from a past, current or intended crime. Property subject to civil forfeiture in New Jersey includes:
- Financial accounts
Asset forfeiture is typically used in drug crimes, weapons cases, white collar crimes, and racketeering cases (RICO). Law enforcement can seize property while conducting a criminal investigation, executing a search warrant, during a lawful arrest or in the course of a criminal prosecution. When the government prevails in a forfeiture case, it keeps the property and the owner is not entitled to compensation. However, law enforcement is required to provide notice of the seizure and prove the relationship or connection between the property and the criminal activity, so it is imperative that the owner of the property contest the taking. Failure to respond to a forfeiture claim in a timely and appropriate way can result in complete loss of the asset(s) at issue.
How Does Asset Forfeiture Occur?
Civil forfeiture is a two-pronged attack that starts when law enforcement seizes the property and the government subsequently commences a forfeiture action. This may involve a local prosecutor filing an action on behalf of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice or other federal agency filing an action pursuant to federal forfeiture laws. In some cases, the state may seize the property and then turn it over to federal authorities for a federal forfeiture proceeding. Regardless of the level of the seizure action you are facing, it takes a well-informed defense strategy to protect your rights.
Civil Forfeiture Under New Jersey Law
Under New Jersey Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1), property that is subject to forfeiture includes:
- Controlled dangerous substances
- Unlawfully possessed, acquired, carried or used firearms
- Illegally possessed gambling devices
- Unlawful sound recordings/audiovisual works
- Counterfeit goods
- Property that has or is intended to become integral to a crime
- Buildings maintained for the purpose of committing offenses against the state
- Proceeds of illegal activities (e.g. prostitution, illegal gambling, bribery, extortion)
In other words, the state can take all types of property; drugs, money, and guns seized in connection with a criminal case are high on the list of forfeited property. At the same time, the state often seizes vehicles that have been used during the commission of a crime. Other types of property subject to forfeiture include personal and real property (e.g. houses, boats, financial accounts). To initiate a forfeiture proceeding, the state must file a complaint within 90 days of the property seizure.
Defenses Against Asset Forfeiture
Defenses against asset forfeiture depend on your status. Are you facing criminal charges? Is a criminal case against you proceeding? At Rosenblatt Law PC, we may be able to assert a number of viable defenses, including, but not limited to:
- The innocent owner defense – This is an “affirmative defense,” which involves proving that you were not involved in or aware of the alleged crime related to the seized property.
- The proportionality defense – This defense against asset forfeiture requires demonstrating that the value of the seized property is disproportionate to the alleged crime or offense.
- Illegal search and seizure – This asset forfeiture defense requires showing that law enforcement violated your right against unlawful search and seizure (e.g. the police did not have a warrant).
Given that law enforcement can seize your assets without proof of a crime, protecting your property rights can be an uphill battle. The sooner you contact our civil forfeiture defense attorneys, the sooner we can get started on your case.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Civil Forfeiture Attorney
Civil forfeiture not only deprives you of your property rights, but other rights as well. In particular, you are not entitled to compensation for property that is seized by the state or federal government. With so much at stake, it is crucial to have the aggressive representation that Rosenblatt Law PC provides. We are well-versed in the applicable forfeiture statutes and have a proven track record of protecting the property rights of our clients. If you or a legal client is facing a forfeiture proceeding, contact our office today for a free consultation.
Located in Hackensack, Rosenblatt Law PC regularly handles civil forfeiture proceedings in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, Hudson, and Union counties and throughout all of Northern Jersey and the greater New York area.