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Articles Tagged with New Mexico

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pexels-dids-3635539-300x200New Mexico is the only state to receive an ‘A’ grade for its civil asset forfeiture laws in a new report by a Virginia-based public interest law firm.

In the third edition of its “Policing for Profit” report, the Institute for Justice takes a look at every state’s civil asset forfeiture laws and the amount of forfeiture proceeds collected since 2000, based on publicly available information.

Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows law enforcement agencies to seize property they suspect is linked to criminal activity, sometimes even without charging the property owner with a crime. It is different from criminal forfeiture, which requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an owner is guilty of a crime and that the property is connected to the case.

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Back in April, I reported on the case of Arlene Harjo. When the woman’s son drove her car while drunk, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) seized her car using a process known as civil asset forfeiture. They would not give it back even though she had committed no crime. Now, a federal judge presiding over her case has found that Albuquerque’s use of civil asset forfeiture is “unconstitutional.”

In 2015, a law was passed in New Mexico essentially banning civil asset forfeiture. This is the legal procedure where law enforcement can take an individual’s property when it is suspected of being involved in a crime. In most states, criminal charges do not need to be filed as this type of forfeiture is a civil, not a criminal, process.
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In 2015, New Mexico passed a law banning civil asset forfeiture, a legal procedure where law enforcement may seize property or cash from individuals even if they have not been convicted of a crime. Now, three years later, reform efforts seem to have stalled. Law enforcement agencies across the state are failing to report property and cash which has been legally forfeited. It is also unclear what has happened to most of the forfeited cash.

According to New Mexico’s civil forfeiture reforms, law enforcement agencies are required to report all forfeitures to the Department of Public Safety. Once submitted, they are to be published on the department’s website by April 1 every year. Even though reporting by law enforcement agencies was widespread in 2015, few reports have been submitted to the department since then.
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The city of Albuquerque has announced it will end its civil asset forfeiture program. This change comes over two years after civil asset forfeiture was essentially banned at the state level in New Mexico.

In 2016, Arlene Harjo had her 2014 Nissan Versa seized by the city of Albuquerque. She never committed a crime, nor was she even charged with one. At the time her car was seized, she had lent it to her son, Tino. He was stopped and charged with drunk driving. While she agreed her son should be punished if he broke the law, she did not agree she should lose her car because of it. Continue reading

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