The Supreme Court of New Jersey in State v. Luis Melendez, reaffirmed the defendant’s right to fight civil forfeiture proceedings while criminal charges are pending, and preventing any statements made by the defendant in those proceedings to be used against him in a subsequent criminal trial.
In light of this decision the Supreme Court has mandated the following language be used in all future civil forfeiture complaints filed by the county prosecutors.
“Defendants should be advised of the following: (1) they may wish to consult with a lawyer about how best to proceed; (2) the State may not use any statements made in an answer to a forfeiture complaint in its case in chief in a related criminal case; and (3) defendants may file a motion to stay the civil forfeiture action under N.J.S.A. 2C:64-3(f). Also, the Court held that whenever practicable, the State should also serve a courtesy copy of the forfeiture complaint on defense counsel when a companion criminal case is pending, so that counsel can offer basic legal advice or make a referral.”
This is a good decision because a defendant should never be asked to choose between his Fourteenth Constitutional rights of due process over his Fifth Amendment rights during his criminal trial. One cautionary note, this case is limited to evidence that the state will use in its case-in-chief, and does not apply to if the defendant takes the witness stand and contradicts his statements or pleadings in the civil forfeiture case.
If you are facing a criminal forfeiture proceedings or criminal case contact the Law Office Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., Esq., to discuss your case.
Before you retain an attorney you must carefully consider the qualifications and track record of the attorney you are considering to hire and find out whether he or she is truly qualified to handle your case. Having a fancy and high tech website does not necessarily mean the attorney has enough experience to take on your case.
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Telephone No. 908-354-7006