In order to deprive criminals of the fruits of their crimes and to act as a deterrent against future crimes, New Jersey law permits the forfeiture of all property that has been used, or is intended to be used, in furtherance of unlawful activity, property which has become, or is intended to become, an integral part of illegal activity and the proceeds of illegal activities (N.J.S. 2C:64-1, et seq.).
Forfeiture means a termination of the owner’s rights in that property, which are then transferred to the State. For items other than prima facie contraband, the State must institute a civil action in the Superior Court in order to extinguish a person’s rights in his/her property. Some examples of items that are subject to forfeiture include: proceeds from the sale of drugs, vehicles that transport drugs or illegal weapons, computers that house child pornography and buildings from which drugs are distributed or illegal gambling is conducted.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Forfeiture Unit is responsible for overseeing the appropriate processing and disposition of all property seized by law enforcement agencies within Passaic County pursuant to the state forfeiture statute. This includes handling the required civil litigation and maintaining records of the seized property. In addition, the unit provides continuous legal advice to municipal police departments.
Forfeited property is only permitted to be used for a law enforcement purpose, such as the purchase of law enforcement equipment or the cost of law enforcement training. Both the procedures to forfeit property and the use of property after forfeiture are subject to strict guidelines promulgated by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.