TRENTON - A man who was arrested on drug charges with $171 in his pocket has been told he'll have to pay a $175 filing fee to try to get the money back.
According to a release by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office included Jermaine Mitchell in a civil action against 21 defendants charged with similar crimes to go after the money through civil forfeiture.
The ACLU says the only thing most of those people have in common is that prosecutors are going after their money. The organization is representing Mitchell and says the defendants aren't all part of a common scheme.
"The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office has made it difficult, and in many cases virtually impossible, for people to challenge the seizure of their property," ACLU-NJ Staff Attorney Rebecca Livengood said in a statement.
According to the ACLU, by combining multiple forfeitures into one lawsuit, Hudson County meets the $15,000 requirement to bring a case in the Law Division of Superior Court rather than the Special Civil Part, a court established to hear smaller controversies.
“No other county in New Jersey engages in such a practice to the ACLU-NJ's knowledge,” the release said.
A judge ruled the case against Mitchell could move forward, but the ACLU appealed Thursday.
Prosecutors have said Mitchell's money was either obtained criminally or would have been used criminally.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.