Thursday, November 21, 2013

Know Your Rights, a Civil Forfeiture Answer Can be Used by the Prosecutor as Evidence Against the Criminal Defendant a Judge Held In Hudson County Criminal Division.

Written as a Public Service to the People by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq.
Served with a forfeiture civil complaint while criminal charges are pending, be careful what you say, you might have waived your fifth amendment right to remain silent.
In a case recently decided by one trial judge, a Hudson county criminal judge held that the admissions made in the civil answer is admissible as to the defendant’s guilt in the underlying criminal case.
In a case of first impressions a New Jersey trial judge says a defendant's answer to a civil forfeiture complaint is admissible in a criminal prosecution arising from the same facts.
The fact alleged by the prosecution is that the CDS found in the defendant’s mother’s apartment in a Hudson County apartment as a result of a search warrant was being possessed with the intent to distribute.  However, along with the drugs was cash in the amount of $3,293.00 which the defendant claimed belonged to him.  The defendant made that admission when he filed a civil forfeiture answer to the prosecutor’s forfeiture civil complaint to forfeit the money.
The State had no evidence directly linking the drugs and money to defendant other than the defendant’s admission in his answer.
The trial court refused to bar the admissions under United States v. Simmons, 390 U.S. 377 (1968), which held that a criminal defendant cannot be forced to choose between his Fourth (illegal search) and Fifth (right to remain silent) amendment rights.  In other words nothing that the defendant says in a motion to suppress can be used against him at trial by the government, unless the defendant testifies and only by way of impeachment.
I am not so sure that this case would stand constitutional muster if the New Jersey Supreme Court was presented this issue.
Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr.,Esq.                    P.O. Box, 277 North Broad Street, Elizabeth (Union County), N.J. 07207

Telephone: (908) 354-7006                                  E-Mail,
Quote of the day:
"Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue. In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts." - Venerable Matt Talbot

Dated: November 21, 2013

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