New Mexico Bans Civil Asset Forfeiture

I wrote about this a few weeks ago and it is now official. The state of New Mexico has upheld the constitution by banning civil asset forfeiture unless the owner of the property is actually convicted of the crime and it is shown that the property was involved in that crime or gained through it.

Last week, New Mexico became the second state to ban the practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows state and local law enforcement agencies to seize property from innocent people.

Gov. Susana Martinez (R) signed HB 560 on Friday, which states that property can only be seized if a person is “arrested for an offense to which forfeiture applies, the person is convicted by a criminal court of the offense, and the state establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture.” In other words, property seizure is only permitted if a person is guilty of a crime. The bill, which received unanimous approval in the state legislature, was first introduced by Rep. Zachary Cook (R).

Under civil asset forfeiture laws across the country, people don’t have to be found guilty or charged with a crime to have their property taken from them. The laws incentivize the seizure of property to the benefit of law enforcement agencies, at the expense of innocent people — who are, often, low-income people of color. No type of property is off-limits, as cash, cars, and houses are routinely seized. And in many cases, law enforcement agencies collect assets under the guise of drug enforcement.

This is what Attorney General Eric Holder should have done at the federal level a few months ago instead of the minor limitations he set on the practice. And it’s what Congress should do nationwide. It’s also what the courts should have done decades ago, but they’ve made the 4th and 5th Amendments virtually irrelevant as a check on the authority of the police.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chiroptera

    The bill, which received unanimous approval in the state legislature….

    Well, that is surprising. What well-connected white guy was the victim of asset forfeiture?

  • grumpyoldfart

    The cops on the beat will be delighted. They can get back into the bribery business again.

  • gshelley

    “New Mexico passes law that says police can’t take your property just because they feel like it”

    In a better world, people would be pointing and laughing at them for passing a law preventing the police from doing something that is blatantly prohibited by the consitution

  • scienceavenger

    You’d think Tea Partiers would have been all over this years ago, what with their hyperventilation at anything remotely resembling government overreach.

  • D. C. Sessions

    And it’s what Congress should do nationwide. It’s also what the courts should have done decades ago, but they’ve made the 4th and 5th Amendments virtually irrelevant as a check on the authority of the police.

    That’s why they had to be worked around, and the Court found work-arounds.

    Think of it this way: “civil asset forfeiture” is as essential to the “war on drugs” as “enhanced interrogation” is to the “war on terror.”

  • Chiroptera

    scienceavenger, #4:

    Well, the Tea Party has more important examples of government overreach to fight against. In Tennessee, they are fighting hard against not making the Bible the official state book.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    The cops on the beat will be delighted. They can get back into the bribery business again.

    Because why? Did you think that the legality of civil asset forfeiture somehow prevented them before?

  • Kermit Sansoo

    John Oliver on assets forfeiture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kEpZWGgJks

  • http://helives.blogspot.com heddle

    A seemingly rare piece of encouraging news.

  • jufulu

    I applaud New Mexico for being in out in front in controlling the overreach in civil asset forfeitures. However, I’m wondering if we’ll see even more proprietorial overreach so that they can get plea deals and keep the assets.

  • Artor

    I am so glad Oregon put a stop to this shit back in 2006. I had no idea we were the only place to do so, and New Mexico would be the second, this much later.

  • StevoR

    @8, Kermit Sansoo : Thanks for that clip. Funny (bizarre! Damning, sureal.) and informative. John Oliver is awesome.

  • http://behind-blue-eyes.us Annie Bruce, formerly gworroll

    I know a trailer park owner who couldn’t give less of a shit if people smoked weed all the time at the park, but he still reports every remotely plausible rumor coming by because he doesn’t want the park basically stolen from him.