The New Mexico legislature [official website] on Saturday passed a bill that will end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill, HB 560, was passed in the senate by a vote of 37-0. Civil asset forfeiture is a police practice in which authorities can take an individual’s property without charging that person for a crime.
The bill abolishes this practice, and now before police may seize an individual’s property they must convict that person of a crime and prove that the property being seized was used in the commission of that crime. Additionally, the bill directs any monetary gains from the seizure of property to the state’s general fund instead of the police budget.
This is thought to remove any incentive police may have to seek out opportunities to seize property. The bill will now move to Republican Governor Susana Martinez’s [official website] for a final signature.
Civil asset forfeiture has been a contentious issue among various states in recent years. Earlier this month Texas state representative David Simpson filed a bill to repeal the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. “No one should forfeit their property without being convicted of a crime,” he stated.” Our current civil forfeiture provisions, though a well intended tool for law enforcement, have eroded the constitutional rights of individuals. It is time we end the practice.”
Last month Wyoming Governor Matt Mead vetoed the state’s civil asset forfeiture reform bill, which had gained considerable support before the governor shot it down. The governor cited the importance of fighting illicit drug activity and profiting from the forfeiture of property seized in such situations. “Crime should not pay, especially drug crime,” a letter from Mead vetoing the bill reads. “We do not have the abuses found in other in other states.”