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8 Commonly Asked Questions About Asset Forfeiture

Legal Blog

Asset forfeiture is a hot topic that is on the minds of many as there has been plenty of publicized cases involving this issue. In fact, the ACLU of New Jersey has published a report with shocking results on the data they collected. We have compiled a list of eight commonly asked questions about asset forfeiture. 

What is Asset Forfeiture?

Asset Forfeiture is when a law enforcement agency takes property from someone they suspect of committing a crime. They seize the property if it’s believed to be stolen, purchased from the profits of criminal activity, or was used to commit the crime.  

What is the Purpose of Asset Forfeiture?

The original purpose of asset forfeiture goes back to the days of piracy where sailors thought to be pirates would have their ships and cargos taken. The concept of modern day asset forfeiture has a similar basis. The intention is to hurt criminals in a way to help break up their criminal enterprise. The money and the money from the sale of goods have the intention of assisting law enforcement in their mission in stopping crime. The problem is that the way the current application of this law goes above and beyond the original intention.

What Types of Asset Forfeiture Exist?

There are three types of asset forfeiture. The types are criminal forfeiture, civil judicial forfeiture, and administrative forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture occurs during a trial of the defendant. An example of this type of seizure will be if someone is on trial for fraud.

Civil judicial forfeiture is different in that it doesn’t require a criminal conviction. Unlike criminal forfeiture, civil judicial forfeiture is filed for the property rather than the owner. This type of seizure is often what you hear about in the news. A person gets pulled over, or their house searched with their items seized upon suspicion of law enforcement.

Administrative forfeiture is when the case is uncontested in that no one files a claim for the goods. This form of seizure is typically when items are imported improperly as it can’t be used for homes or similar property.     

What Items Fall Under Asset Forfeiture?

Any money or property that is believed to be the fruits of a crime or used to commit a crime can be seized. This loose definition means that almost anything falls under this legal term. A person’s home or business. The money that they possess. Any of their assets that they have in their possession. Law enforcement must have a suspicion that this is the case, and in order to keep your property have to have evidence to support this suspicion. It seems very cut and dry, but looking at cases that make the news, it may not be that easy.

Who Can Perform Asset Forfeiture?

Any level of law enforcement can perform asset forfeiture. Local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are all able to seize assets. These assets have to be believed to have been used in a crime, are the profits of a crime, or that pose a danger to the public.

Is an Arrest Necessary?

No, an arrest is not necessary for asset forfeiture. Law enforcement must have evidence that the property that has been taken is contraband. It needs to fall under certain criteria. The property needs to be the profits of a crime or purchased using the benefits of a crime. It can also be something that was part of the commission of a crime or something that poses a threat to the public.

What is the Burden of Proof in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence. This concept means that law enforcement officials need to have evidence to back their claim falls under the law for asset forfeiture. Law enforcement has no set reporting requirements in New Jersey. Also, the entire proceeds from a seizure go to the agency that seized it. These conditions can mean that law enforcement has more of an incentive to go after asset forfeiture situations, even if the case shouldn’t be one that qualifies.

Do You Need Legal Help?

The most important thing you can do is contest the asset seizure. Often, people feel powerless when the courts have seized their property. In some instances, they don’t try to get their property back because they don’t understand what needs to be done. Legal assistance can help you in determining the best way to go about getting this property back in your hands.    

Have you or a loved one been involved in a situation where an asset forfeiture is an issue and aren’t sure how to best move forward? Contact the Law Office of Douglas Herring today to discuss your case. Let our experienced staff plan out the best steps for helping to get the best outcome possible.

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