Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Late last month, the New Mexico legislature passed a bill — with no opposition in either chamber — reforming civil asset forfeiture, a process that is sometimes abused by law enforcement to seize citizens’ private property without their being convicted of a crime, or following a minor traffic violation. Worse yet, under some arrangements with the Feds, police departments can keep the money to use for their own budgets. No one knew whether Governor Susana Martinez would sign SB 560, and the clock was ticking before the legislature’s session ended. Well, she has done it!
Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has signed into law House Bill 560, the state’s broad asset forfeiture reform legislation. The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Zachary Cook, had complete bipartisan approval in the state’s split House (controlled by Republicans) and Senate (controlled by Democrats).
More from Reason:
It eliminated the concept of “civil” asset forfeiture, meaning law enforcement agencies would have to actually convict people of crimes to take their assets. It also requires all proceeds from asset forfeitures by law enforcement agencies to be put into the state’s general fund. This is important because it reduces police incentives to engage in reckless forfeiture efforts, because they’d no longer be able to keep what they grab. It also means that the law enforcement agencies wouldn’t be able to bypass state law by turning to the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program. The program lets local law enforcement agencies keep seized assets by partnering with federal agencies, but it requires the locals to have their own funds for them. House Bill 560… would forbid law enforcement agencies from retaining any forfeited property.