Civil Asset Forfeiture Suffers a Crushing Defeat in New Mexico

Both chambers of the legislature unanimously passed a bill providing that only criminal forfeitures would be allowed in the state — no longer would a person who had not been convicted of a crime have to forfeit his property. Furthermore, to eliminate the profit motive from law enforcement, any future funds from forfeitures would go into the general fund. Gov. Suzanna Martinez promptly signed the bill into law, giving New Mexico the nation’s best grade on civil asset forfeiture, according to the analysis of the Institute for Justice (IJ), the libertarian group that has spearheaded the battle against not only civil asset forfeiture, but many other governmental assaults on freedom and property rights. You can read IJ’s report on civil asset forfeiture, “Policing for Profit.

But passage of that bill, called the New Mexico Forfeiture Act (NMFA), did not stop civil asset-forfeiture abuse. Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, had a thriving civil asset-forfeiture operation going and it decided to ignore the new law on the specious grounds that it did not apply to the city’s actions. The city kept right on with its lucrative vehicle-forfeiture racket.