TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr. and Senator Declan J. O’Scanlon, Jr. that establishes asset forfeiture reporting and transparency requirements advanced from the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee today.
“Currently, law enforcement is allowed to keep money and property seized in connection with a criminal investigation. However, this practice might spur a monetary incentive to seize funds and property, even if criminal charges or a conviction are never obtained,” said Senator Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “As state aid continues to decline, law enforcement will become more dependent on these funds during investigations. But this bill would ensure transparency in the collection and use of funds and property through civil asset forfeiture without eliminating this important source of income.”
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:
- develop an asset forfeiture form to be completed by county prosecutors;
- establish and maintain a case tracking system and searchable database accessible by the public; and
- submit an annual summary report to the Legislature and make it publicly available on the Attorney General’s website.
The bill was released from committee by a vote of 5-0, and next heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.