In exchange for his guilty plea and forfeiture of the $56,000 seized, the State agreed to recommend a non-custodial probationary sentence.

- New Jersey Appellate Division decision, in State v. Al H. Aly, Docket No. A-5249-09T4, decided 04/12/2012

Under New Jersey Law, forfeited cash does not go to the general fund. Rather, "all money seized . . . shall become the property of the entity funding the prosecuting agency involved" and the prosecuting agency "shall divide the . . . money seized . . . with any other entity where the other entity's law enforcement agency participated in the surveillance, investigation, arrest or prosecution resulting in the forfeiture." N.J.S.A. 2C:64-6. (full text at http://ogtf.lpcnj.org/2012/2012103Ok//2C64.pdf)

So, the Middlesex County Prosecutor allowed the defendant to avoid jail time PROVIDED that the defendant wouldn't contest the forfeiture of the $56,000 in cash that was seized. Did the prospect of adding $56,000 to his office's bank account affect the Prosecutor's decision on what plea deal to offer this defendant?

Criminal plea agreements resolving civil asset forfeiture claims raise numerous ethical concerns. Criminal plea agreements should be based on the severity of the criminal offense, a defendant’s criminal history, and the danger an individual poses to the community. Allowing a criminal defendant to use property as part of the consideration in a plea agreement creates an inference that a defendant may have been given preferential treatment by giving up personal assets. Because the prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement agencies will be the direct beneficiaries of any forfeited property, criminal plea agreements resolving civil forfeiture litigation also raise conflict of interest is sues. A prosecutor has a duty to pursue criminal sanctions against those who violate the law and to protect the public from those who pose a danger. A global plea agreement resolving criminal charges and civil forfeiture litigation creates a conflict for prosecutors between their duty to protect the public and their desire to supplement the budgets of their own offices and the budgets of law enforcement agencies through forfeited property."

- from "Civilizing Criminal Sanctions – A Practical Analysis," by Joseph Cramer, West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 112, pp. 1012-13

John Paff, Chairman
New Jersey Libertarian Party's
Police Accountability Project
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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