(SOUTH PLAINFIELD) – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. that establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements passed the full Senate today.

“Across New Jersey, law enforcement can confiscate cash, cars and other property from people, often without ever charging them with a crime,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex) “While defensible as a means to take the material support of the criminals and instead makes it the material support of law enforcement; a need for a wide-ranging transparency of the scope and scale of asset forfeiture is needed and is vital for keeping law enforcement accountable against abuses and bringing forfeiture spending into the light of day for the public good.”

“Civil asset forfeiture is a complex legal phenomenon that is often hidden from public view,” said Roseanne Scotti, the New Jersey state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Because New Jersey’s reporting laws fail to capture meaningful information on forfeitures, there is a significant data gap in what we know about civil forfeitures in the state. The legislation that recently passed the senate will help identify the true scope of civil forfeiture in the state by establishing comprehensive reporting requirements to protect the civil liberties and property rights of the people of New Jersey.”

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The bill, S-1963, would require county prosecutors to compile and submit to the Attorney General quarterly reports concerning asset seizure and forfeiture by law enforcement agencies within that county.

Specifically, the bill would require these reports to include information pertaining to each seizure of property, information and nature pertaining to the forfeiture of property, the value of property seized and forfeited, and the date of the forfeiture order.  The bill would also require county prosecutors to report information about the amount of forfeiture funds received or the value of forfeited property by law enforcement agencies in the county, federal agencies, or joint task forces.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Attorney General would be required to:

 

a)     Develop an asset forfeiture form to be completed by county prosecutors;

 

b)    Establish and maintain a case tracking system and searchable database accessible by the public; and

 

c)     Submit an annual summary report to the Legislature and make it publicly available on the Attorney General’s website.

 

The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 37-0.