The Civil Unit of the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office is responsible for prosecuting all civil forfeitures within Bergen County. In order to act as a deterrent against future crimes and to deprive criminals of the illicit gains of their crimes, New Jersey law pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1 et. seq., permits the forfeiture of property that has been used, or is intended to be used, in furtherance of an unlawful activity arising from an indictable offense. The procedures to forfeit property as well as the use of property after forfeiture are subject to strict guidelines promulgated by the Office of the Attorney General. The Civil Unit prosecutes civil forfeiture actions where the State has seized currency, automobiles, real estate and other property received as proceeds or utilized in connection with or in furtherance of the underlying criminal activity. Some common examples of property that is subject to forfeiture include: illegal weapons, currency that is used to purchase drugs or promote loan sharking, automobiles used to transport illegal weapons or narcotics, laptops containing child pornography and homes where drugs are illegally distributed.
The State has the burden of proving the forfeitability of each property by a preponderance of the evidence. Once satisfied, all interests in the property are forfeited unless claimants can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were innocent owners.
After settlement or by entry of judgment in a forfeiture action the proceeds are distributed to participating state and local law enforcement purposes and expenditures are reviewed and supervised by the Prosecutor`s Office.
The Civil Unit also handles miscellaneous civil litigation involving the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office. Among other civil litigation practices, the Civil Unit files complaints and motions, negotiates settlements and is responsible for trials. Another aspect of the Unit`s responsibility is the handling and processing of Open Public Records Act requests and subpoenas.