Decades ago when civil asset forfeiture laws were first proposed they seemed like a good idea. But at this point they’ve become a corrupting influence and just an excuse to steal from citizens. Now New Mexico has made a move to reverse the damage.
The corrupt law in question, here, is the civil asset forfeiture law, a rule that was created to give cops the ability to quickly seize property and assets so that drug dealers won’t have the cash on hand–or the ability to liquidate assets–to help them get away with drug dealing.
With this law cops can seize your property and assets even if they never charge you with a crime. Worse, they often never return the money and property even if you are eventually proven innocent in a court of law.
Unfortunately, once these laws spread across the country what ended up happening in practice is that cops simply started stealing the money and property of nearly everyone they came in contact with making a mockery of both the Constitution and the whole purpose the law was created for in the first place.
In essence, forfeiture laws ended up turning police into outright criminals.
But these laws are coming under increasing scrutiny as the abuses pile up Now, New Mexico has just put an end to this corrupt practice that turns cops into thieves.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez just signed a bill into law that will materially alter the practice in her state taking away much of the incentive that corrupted the rule.
“As an attorney and career prosecutor, I understand how important it is that we ensure safeguards are in place to protect our constitutional rights,” Martinez said on Friday. “On balance, the changes made by this legislation improve the transparency and accountability of the forfeiture process and provide further protections to innocent property owners.”
The new law in New Mexico makes two key changes to the state’s civil asset forfeiture law:
1. Currently, when police seize property they can keep it even if you are innocent. Under the new law, police can still take property from you for a short period, but would need a conviction or a guilty plea in order to keep it.
2. The law changes the incentive structure for police. Under the new law, if police do get a guilty verdict and your property is forfeited, it goes to the state’s general fund rather than the police department’s budget. The difference at least adds a layer of bureaucracy and oversight between police and the funds they seize.
This is a good move. Let’s hope that all other states take notice and follow suit. Civil asset forfeiture laws are an abomination and incentivizes cops to turn into thieves with no regard for private property rights. This has always been a direct violation of the US Constitution and the spirit of our American property rights.