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The Champion

September/October 2003 , Page 999 

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New Jersey's statute held unconstitutional: Prosecutors may not benefit from forfeiture cases

By David B. Smith

New Jersey Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Bowen has dealt a stunning blow to the"bounty hunter" system in place in about half the states, whereby state prosecutors receive a significant share of the forfeiture booty with few limitations on how they spend it. In a test case ably litigated by the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative public interest legal foundation, the court held that N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1 et seq. violates the due process clauses of the New Jersey and federal constitutions because it exceeds the constitutional limit on the financial or personal interest of officials charged with prosecutorial functions.1 Before I discuss the decision, I must digress to explain what the issue is and why it is so important.

The problem with ‘bounty hunter’ statutes

Forfeiture reformers, notably the NACDL, have long identified these statutory bounty hunter provisions as the root cause of most forfeiture abuse. They give prosecutors and law enforcement agencies too great an

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