New Mexico Passes Law Saying Law Enforcement Can't Steal Your Property Without A Criminal Conviction
from the good-news dept
We’ve been talking for a while about the ridiculousness of the civil asset forfeiture system in the US, whereby law enforcement can basically steal what they want (and some cops will even admit that, to them, it’s shopping for stuff they want). If you don’t remember, it basically just involves police taking stuff and then insisting that it was ill-gotten goods from some sort of law breaking activity — which would be kept by filing a civil lawsuit against the stuff itself rather than the person. There didn’t need to be any criminal conviction at all. Earlier this year, Eric Holder tried to limit the DOJ’s assistance of such shopping sprees by law enforcement, but police were still open to using the process to take stuff.
And, now, some states are trying to take action. Virginia lawmakers started pushing for a requirement of a criminal conviction. A similar bill in Wyoming passed out of the legislature overwhelmingly, but was vetoed by the governor who seemed to argue that all civil asset forfeiture “is right” despite plenty of evidence of abuse.
However, in New Mexico, not only did the legislature agree on a bill requiring a conviction, but now Governor Susana Martinez has signed the bill:
House Bill 560 (HB 560) makes numerous changes to the asset forfeiture process used by law enforcement agencies in New Mexico. As an attorney and career prosecutor, I understand how important it is that we ensure safeguards are in place to protect our constitutional rights. 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.
This is great to see and hopefully other states will follow suit — or we can get a federal law stating that police can’t just take stuff without a criminal conviction.