While forfeiture cases are nothing new in New Jersey, it seems to me that they are increasing in number. I first really noticed it when I had a client who filed a restraining order against his wife. At the hearing date, she announced that she wanted to file one against him. Since this was clear retaliation, we easily won. His temporary restraining order was converted into final restraining order and her TRO was dismissed.
So, now that we won, it was time to get his guns back. The prosecutor informed me that she would still be moving to forfeit them. My response was, wait, he’s the victim and you still want his guns? Another client just hired me with a similar situation. He gave his guns to the police for safe keeping while the TRO situation was sorted out. They didn’t even want them. Nevertheless, the State is now moving to forfeit all of his firearms even though the TRO was dismissed.
Another problem is what happens when firearms are seized due to a TRO but they belong to a third party that is not involved in the TRO hearing? In the past, it was rather easy to get them back. However, I think we will see the State looking for any reason to take them.
Here’s the worst part. The State doesn’t have to meet any standard of proof before they make a motion for forfeiture. Thus, you are not only put on the defense but you are in a position where you have to prove that you should get your own guns back. Crazy huh? Something needs to be done about this. Maybe a few law suits against the State for filing frivolous actions will stop this.