The Police Have Seized my Property, What Do I Have to Do to Get it Back?
If the police have seized your property during an arrest or in the course of their investigation, you can fight to get your property back. Civil asset forfeiture provides the basis for the state to seize any piece of property that was used in the commission of a crime or was purchased with the proceeds from a crime. After your property is seized, a prosecutor will file a civil forfeiture action for the property to be forfeited to the State of New Jersey. Property seizures can have a huge impact on your life. It helps to have an experienced attorney on your side who can fight for you and your property.
Property Subject to Seizure
The New Jersey forfeiture law (N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1) states that the following kinds of property are subject to seizure:
- Proceeds from an illegal activity, such as cash from dealing drugs, corporate fraud, or money laundering
- Property integral to an illegal act, like money used to finance illegal gambling
- Property used in committing a crime, such as an automobile used to transport illegal drugs, weapons, and other controlled items
After the seizure, the State has 90 days to file a civil lawsuit articulating why the item is considered contraband or how it was linked to a crime. The State intends to take permanent possession of the property seized. The State has the burden to prove their case and the prosecutor must establish the connection between the seized property and the criminal act. If a third party holds a security interest in the property, such as a loan, credit, or lease, the civil forfeiture action can typically be defeated. Also, if the owner of the property was not involved or aware in the criminal act, he or she cannot be reasonably held responsible for it. However, it usually helps to have an attorney on your side to ensure that your property is defended.
Civil v. Criminal Cases
A civil judge from the law division hears the civil forfeiture matter; it is separate from a criminal prosecution. In general, the police arrest an individual and seize the suspected property simultaneously. Generally, one prosecutor works on the criminal case while a different prosecutor prepares the civil case. Since the cases are connected, the defense attorney hired should handle both the civil and criminal aspects of the case.
This approach is advantageous because if there are different attorneys defending the two portions of the case, one can negatively affect the other. For example, if an individual is acquitted on the criminal charge, it does not necessarily mean that the civil case is over or that the property will be returned.
Contact the Williams Law Group for a Free Consultation
Please contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss any legal concerns regarding forfeiture matters in New Jersey. One of our talented attorneys, Kevin McArdle, Esq., previously worked for the Forfeiture Unit in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office. He is well equipped to handle these matters and he has been highly successful in helping his clients get their property back after it has been seized. We are ready and waiting to hear from you. Call our office today!