New Jersey Police took $5.5 million from residents in 5 months — and few have the means to challenge it, ACLU report says

The drugs didn’t belong to Latonya Shaw. That was what authorities determined when they reduced her drug charges to a single count of obstruction, according to her lawyer. She was later sentenced to a year’s probation.

But that didn’t stop authorities in Hudson County from taking the $7,020 she had planned to use on a new apartment for her three children. Instead, prosecutors went after the money under a controversial legal maneuver that allows law enforcement take money used in criminal enterprises and use it to toward their own budgets.

“They were forced to stay with her mom for a full year,” said Liza Weisberg, a fellow with the ACLU who represented her in the case. “It was a huge blow to her and her mother.”

Her lost money is only a small chunk of the total seized by cops through civil forfeiture, a process under which law enforcement can take cash, cars and property from suspected criminals, according to a new ACLU-NJ report.