New Mexico Thinks They Put a Crimp in Civil Forfeiture Law

From Right Wing News:

Susana -Martinez

It is called the civil asset forfeiture law and New Mexico just put an end to this corrupt practice that turns cops into thieves. New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez just signed a bill into law that will materially alter the practice in her state taking away much of the incentive that corrupted the rule.

The law seemed like a good idea decades ago when it was first proposed. The idea was to give cops the ability to quickly seize the property of drug dealers who were arrested so that they wouldn’t have the cash on hand–or the ability to liquidate assets–to help them get away with drug dealing.

But what ended up happening in practice is that cops simply started stealing the money and property of nearly everyone they came in contact with defeating the whole purpose of this law as a tool against drug dealers.

In essence, forfeiture laws ended up turning police into outright criminals.

But now these laws are finally starting to fall out of favor and New Mexico joined that trend by materially altering its forfeiture practice.

“As an attorney and career prosecutor, I understand how important it is that we ensure safeguards are in place to protect our constitutional rights,” Martinez said in a letter announcing her decision. “On balance, the changes made by this legislation improve the transparency and accountability of the forfeiture process and provide further protections to innocent property owners.”

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can seize your property and keep it even if they don’t convict or charge you with a crime. Then, you must go through the difficult, and often unsuccessful process to get your property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or your home–back from the police.

The new law makes two important changes:

1. Currently, when police seize property they can keep it even if you are innocent. Under the new law, police can still take property from you for a short period, but would need a conviction or a guilty plea in order to keep it.

2. The law changes the incentive structure for police. Under the new law, if police do get a guilty verdict and your property is forfeited, it goes to the state’s general fund rather than the police department’s budget. The difference at least adds a layer of bureaucracy and oversight between police and the funds they seize.

This is a good move. Let’s hope that all other states take notice and follow suit. Civil asset forfeiture laws are an abomination and turns cops into thieves with no regard for private property rights. This has always been a direct violation of the US Constitution and the spirit of our American property rights.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Approved in D.C. Legislature | Opinion ...

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The author of this piece is Warner Todd Huston and apparently he’s okay with cops seizing people’s property, so long as the state inserts a middleman into the process so the proceeds don’t stay in the hands of the cops.

As we’ve discussed on several occasions, here, here and here, this is still a violation of the 4th amendment.  A detour in the trail of where the money goes after seizure doesn’t change that.

Governor Martinez would have reason to be proud of herself had she repealed or voided this law. Simply adding another person to the flow chart is not ‘further protection’.

~Kathy

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11 Responses to New Mexico Thinks They Put a Crimp in Civil Forfeiture Law

  1. captbogus2 says:

    The old, “You are guilty until you prove you’re innocent,” routine. Comes out in all wannabe tyrant governments, right along with destroying your rights to keep and bear..

    • Kathy says:

      Exactly, Cap. When civil forfeiture was first made into law, it was in violation of the 4th amendment, but folks liked the idea of catching drug dealers red handed, so it was okay.

      Now that it’s morphed into theft by cop, they heap more law onto it instead of putting a stop to it. Just like the 1A, the 2A, and on and on.

  2. Uriel says:

    Agreed Kathy. How about moving half to general fund and half to a kitty draw where cops can go for tax free loans. Makes more sense and incentive is still there to get drug money off the streets.

    • Kathy says:

      That might be a workable plan if it were just the drug dealers, Uriel, but the problem is they’re taking money from innocent people and keeping it.

      You can click on that first link in my comments and read more about how this money is like a reverse pyramid scheme and goes all the way up to Holder. It’s turned into a legalized racket.

  3. tannngl says:

    This new law in New Mexico is going to cause more problems for the innocent citizen.

    So! The cops can keep the money and possessions if they can get a guilty plea or a conviction?
    What do you think is going to happen?

    • Kathy says:

      In most instances, they keep it, period, tannngl, whether they get a guilty verdict or not. That’s been the typical pattern, so this step may alter that somewhat, but it doesn’t change the fact they’re stealing from people.

      If the citizen can afford the legal battle for long enough, they’re lucky to get back half of their money,

      • tannngl says:

        I’m sorry, Kathy. I didn’t make myself clear.
        This need to bring a guilty verdict by police in order to keep the valuables WILL cause wrongful criminal verdicts.

      • Uriel says:

        Dont forget our current Offering for attorney general has been doing this as well which begs to wonder if there are Any honest people left even willing to apply for any government position. Every single person O has sponsored, appointed, or sided with is cut from the same cloth.