After law enforcement charges you with a criminal offense in New Jersey, they may subject you to civil forfeiture, a potentially life-changing consequence. Civil forfeiture applies to any piece of property the defendant owns and they allegedly used either in the commission of a crime or purchased with the proceeds from a crime. Whether the property is a house, car or boat, the prosecutor will file a civil forfeiture action for the property and forfeit it to the state. For more information on whether you will be subject to civil forfeiture while facing charges for a crime in New Jersey, please continue reading, then contact an experienced Mercer County asset forfeiture defense lawyer soon.
What property can law enforcement seize under the New Jersey Forfeiture Law?
Per New Jersey’s forfeiture law (N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1), law enforcement may seize the following classes of property:
- Any proceeds from an illegal activity, such as cash from drug dealing
- Property that is integral to the illegal acts, like money used to finance illegal gambling
- Property used in committing a crime, such as a motor vehicle used to transport illegal controlled substances
What are the rules governing civil forfeiture in New Jersey?
Unless the property is illegal in and of itself – like dangerous controlled substances, illegal firearms and illegal devices used for gambling – the state has ninety days to file a civil lawsuit detailing why it considers the item contraband or integral to a crime. Through this lawsuit, the state intends to take permanent possession of the property. Since the burden of proof rests on the state, it must establish the connection between the defendant and the criminal act. The connection must be more than casual; the criminal activity and the property must be dependent on one another.
What is the difference between a civil forfeiture case and the underlying criminal case?
A civil judge, not a criminal judge, oversees civil forfeiture. Generally, law enforcement arrests the suspect and seizes the property simultaneously. One prosecutor will prepare the criminal case, while a separate prosecutor will work on the civil case. Usually, the prosecutors will coordinate and keep each other aware of the status of each. Your defense lawyer will handle both the criminal and civil aspects of the case because the cases are inextricably linked. If the defendant has two lawyers for the two portions of the case, one might negatively impact the other. For instance, even if a jury acquits a defendant in a criminal trial, law enforcement will not immediately return his or her property.
If you face asset forfeiture, speak with a skilled Mercer County criminal defense lawyer today.
CONTACT A MERCER COUNTY CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER
If you face a criminal matter, contact The Law Office of Douglas Herring to schedule your initial consultation.