On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Monmouth County.
King, Landau and Thomas. The opinion of this court was delivered by Thomas, J.A.D.
Robert Newell, Jr. appeals from a trial Judge's ruling forfeiting his 1985 Ford Bronco to the State. The basis of the decision was the Judge's finding that the Bronco was "utilized in furtherance of" or "intended to facilitate" an unlawful activity within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1(a)(2).
On September 3, 1989, appellant Robert Newell, Jr., his brother, and some friends drove in the subject Bronco to Wall Stadium to watch stock car races. They arrived early so they went "four-wheeling" in the Bronco at a nearby gravel pit. After an hour of this sport, they drove back to the stadium and parked. Appellant and two others later returned on foot to the gravel pit and inflicted $40,000 in damages to construction equipment.
Later arrested, appellant pled guilty to third degree criminal mischief, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3a(1) and was sentenced to five years probation, 150 hours of community service, fined $1,000, given a Violent Crimes Compensation Board penalty of $30 and ordered to make $13,500 restitution. He has been making periodic payments on his fine and restitution. The Bronco which appellant drove to Wall Stadium was also declared forfeit by the Prosecutor's Office.
These issues are raised on this appeal:
The Language of the Forfeiture Statute Requires a Close Causal Relationship Between the Forfeited Property and the Unlawful Activity.
There was Not a Sufficiently Close Relationship Between the Ford Bronco and the Criminal Mischief to Make Forfeiture Appropriate.
A. The Relationship between the Bronco and the Criminal Mischief is Incidental.
B. A "Substantial Connection" Between the Property and the Unlawful Activity is Required Before ...