As a friend-of-the-court, the ACLU-NJ argued that Hudson County violated Luis Melendez's rights when they used his statements from a civil asset forfeiture case as evidence against him in his subsequent criminal trial. It is unconstitutional, the ACLU-NJ asserted, to force people like Mr. Melendez to choose between their right against self-incrimination and their right to be accorded due process before the State may permanently deprive them of their property. Here, Mr. Melendez was warned that if he did not respond to the State’s civil asset forfeiture suit, he could lose the nearly $3,000 the police had seized from him based on a suspicion that it was involved in criminal activity. Mr. Melendez, who did not have a lawyer, wasn’t aware that the information he shared in the process of challenging that forfeiture could be admitted in the State’s criminal case against him. The ACLU-NJ argued that Mr. Melendez’s uncounseled statement should have been excluded from the State’s criminal case and offered recommendations for procedural protections in these circumstances.
ACLU-NJ argued the case before the Appellate Division on September 12, 2017. A decision is currently pending in the New Jersey Supreme Court.