Civil Forfeiture Explained

When you think of the consequences of a criminal case, you likely first think of fines, jail time, probation, and similar penalties imposed as a part of your sentence. However, you may not realize that you also may lose your valued property. Specifically, the prosecutor may attempt to seize certain property of yours in a legal action called a “civil forfeiture.”

Civil forfeiture is a way for the government to seize property from certain accused criminal offenders as allowed by NJ law. Property that is vulnerable to seizure can include:

  • Property that was in your possession unlawfully — This can include drugs, stolen property, unlawful firearms, and more.
  • Property that you used in the commission of a crime — Such as your car if you used it to transport a controlled dangerous substance or even your home if you conducted illegal activity inside.
  • Property that was a primary part of a criminal offense — This includes the profits from prostitution or a drug deal or money used to fund additional crime.

Unless the property was inherently illegal to possess, law enforcement cannot simply keep your property. Instead, for something like your house or car, the prosecutor must go through the proper legal process of civil forfeiture. This is a legal action brought in civil court during which the prosecutor must sufficiently prove that the property was linked to criminal activity and therefore should be retained by the government.

A civil forfeiture action is technically separate from your criminal charges and there are different methods of defending against civil forfeiture than there are in your criminal case. To help you keep your property, your criminal defense attorney must argue that your property is not actually contraband. In addition, the two cases should be coordinated as there can be complications if one case is settled before the other one is resolved, as well. Often, allowing you to keep your property can be part of overall negotiations with the prosecutor.

Call Attorney Leon Matchin for a Consultation Today

As if being accused of a crime was not stressful enough, you also risk losing your property in some cases. Not every criminal defense attorney understands how to also defend against a civil forfeiture action. At the Law Offices of Leon Matchin in New Jersey, we provide qualified assistance with a wide range of criminal defense matters, including civil forfeiture. We can handle every aspect of your case, so please do not hesitate to call our criminal defense attorney at (833) 732-7320 to discuss your situation today.

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