Civil Asset Forfeiture Ban Passed in New Mexico, Heads to Governor

SANTA FE, NM—On the final day of the 2015 legislative session, the Senate unanimously passed Representative Zachary Cook’s bill to end civil asset forfeiture—also known as “policing for profit”—in New Mexico. This unfair practice allows police to seize and keep property of citizens who haven’t even been charged with a crime, never mind convicted. Rep. Cook’s legislation would end the legal fiction of civil forfeiture—that property can be responsible for a crime—and replaces it with criminal forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture requires a conviction of a person as a prerequisite to losing property tied to the crime.

“Crime should not pay,” said Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation. “This bill strikes exactly the right balance by allowing law enforcement to bring criminals to justice while protecting the property rights of innocent New Mexicans.”

The bill enjoyed widespread bipartisan support at every stage of the legislative process, passing unanimously through every committee and both the House and Senate floors. This support mirrors the movement at the national level, which is fueled by a powerful partnership between conservative and liberal advocates. Bipartisan legislation has already been introduced in both houses of Congress that would dramatically reform federal civil asset forfeiture laws.

“This bill is one of the most powerful proposals in the country to end a practice that undermines American’s property rights and violates due process,” said Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a national organization pressing for forfeiture reform. “This is a big day for New Mexico.”

The proposal is also endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the Drug Policy Alliance.