Judge Rules Albuquerque Civil Forfeiture Law Unconstitutional, Upholds Innocent Until Proven Guilty

In a landmark decision, a federal court ruled that Albuquerque’s civil forfeiture program “violates procedural due process” because it forced hundreds of property owners to prove their own innocence. With his ruling spanning over 100 pages, Judge James Browning also found that the city’s “forfeiture officials have an unconstitutional institutional incentive to prosecute forfeiture cases,” since the program has “de facto power over its spending…the more revenue it raises, the more revenue it can spend.”

Thanks to this incentive to police for profit, the city’s forfeiture program “generated $11.8 million in revenue in the form of forfeitures, settlements and fees,” between fiscal 2009 and 2016. The program was so lucrative, revenues actually exceeded expenses for four of those years.