New Mexico Passes Bill To Abolish Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Casey Harper Contributor
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The New Mexico state legislature passed a groundbreaking bill Saturday to abolish civil asset forfeiture.

Now Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who will likely get attention as a potential 2016 vice presidential candidate, will have the bill on her desk.

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice where police can take and keep your property without convicting or even charging you of a crime. Then, you must go through the arduous and often unsuccessful process to get your property–whether it’s a vehicle, cash or your home–back from the police.

New Mexico police must now convict you of a crime and prove your property was used in the crime before you forfeit it to the authorities. Also, the money gained from the property will now go to the state’s general fund instead of police budgets, so that police do not have incentives to take from citizens.

The bill passed the Senate the last day of the legislative session. If the bill had not passed Saturday, it would likely not have been reexamined for 2 years because of New Mexico’s short legislative sessions.

Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, worked closely on getting this bill passed. Gessing said if this effort doesn’t get the governor’s signature it will likely be years before the issue gets another chance for reform because during the next legislative session the agenda is set by the governor.

“I think she would go along with this but I don’t think it is going to be something she puts herself out there on,” Gessing told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Several states have made strides on similar bills. Wyoming even had a bill make it to the governor’s office earlier this year, but Gov. Matt Mead vetoed it. (RELATED: Wyoming Governor Vetoes Civil Asset Forfeiture Bill)

The implementation of this bill would send a message to other states that this widespread practice can be abolished despite the lobbying of law enforcement and prosecutors.

Continuous media reports of extreme abuses by police in civil asset forfeiture have helped draw national bipartisan scrutiny that has been building in recent months. (RELATED: The 7 Most Egregious Examples Of Civil Asset Forfeiture)

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Casey Harper