TRENTON, NJ — In accordance with legislation mandating comprehensive disclosure and transparency requirements for the system of civil asset forfeiture, acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced April 5 the launch of an online portal that allows county prosecutors to submit reports detailing seizure and forfeiture activities by law enforcement agencies in their counties. This data will then be used to create an online case tracking system and searchable database of civil asset forfeitures across New Jersey.
In an effort to make forfeiture actions by law enforcement more transparent, in fiscal year 2022 the Office of the Attorney General was appropriated $2.6 million to create and maintain a public case tracking system and searchable database for all asset seizures and forfeitures in the state. As a result, the InfoShare Case Management system used by all 21 county prosecutors offices now includes a forfeiture module with updated forms and data fields where forfeiture information can be uploaded to the electronic platform. In addition to the information required by the statute, a supplemental feature requires law enforcement to include information related to race, ethnicity and gender to help get a better sense of how seizures and forfeitures affect different groups throughout the state.
“This tracking system is an important step towards increasing transparency in forfeiture practices by New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies,” Platkin said. “Law enforcement and residents alike will benefit from the collection and tracking of information regarding asset seizures and forfeitures.”
“The Division of Criminal Justice is committed to ensuring the civil rights and liberties of residents are protected,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Lyndsay V. Ruotolo said. “This portal will help increase confidence in New Jersey’s justice system by ensuring comprehensive reporting on civil forfeiture is tracked and accessible to the public.”
An external portal has also been created to allow all law enforcement officers access to an electronic forfeiture reporting case input system in order to streamline and modernize the intake of seizure information. With this system, both seizure and forfeiture information can be collected in a uniform and timely manner. The data collected will be used to generate reports and populate a public-facing dashboard required by state law.
The Division of Criminal Justice also has the ability to alert law enforcement agencies who do not report seizure data — or a certification of no seizure activity — of their requirement to comply. To ensure all law enforcement officers and prosecutors know how to use the new system designed to comply with the new law, the Division of Criminal Justice has presented more than 60 statewide trainings and is planning another 20 trainings.
The launch of the online portal follows a bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy on Jan. 13, 2020, that requires county prosecutors to submit quarterly reports to the attorney general including information regarding the law enforcement agency involved in a confiscation; date, description and details of a seizure; the amount of funds or estimated value of a property; the alleged criminal offense associated with a seizure; and whether the defendant was charged with an offense and if those charges were ultimately dismissed or the defendant was acquitted, among other information.
The database will include reports specifying the type, approximate value and disposition of the property seized, and the amount of any proceeds received or expended, whether obtained directly or as contributive share, including but not limited to the use thereof for asset maintenance, forfeiture prosecution costs, costs of extinguishing any perfected security interest in seized property and the contributive share of property and proceeds of other participating local law enforcement agencies. The data will provide details of all proceeds expended and the purpose of each expenditure.