by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef shares with Forbes readers details of the continuing fight against civil asset forfeiture in one Western state.
Back in summer, the [New Mexico] state legislature unanimously passed a bill that defangs the civil asset forfeiture viper and Governor Martinez promptly signed it into law.
Amazingly, however, civil asset forfeiture continues in New Mexico, as officials in Albuquerque and other cities scoff at the law.
On November 18, two state senators supported by the pro-liberty litigators at the Institute for Justice filed suit in state court to compel all New Mexico officials to obey the law. This step is necessary because city officials are so desperate to keep their gravy train rolling that they have continued to act as if nothing had changed.
The Institute for Justice has released a fascinating report on this battle.
“Albuquerque officials,” the report states, “have responded to these landmark reforms with defiance. Albuquerque has continued to run its lucrative civil asset forfeiture machine despite the legislature’s clear command that only criminal forfeiture is allowed.”
Especially brazen is the city’s decision to purchase an even larger lot to store vehicles it plans to confiscate from non-criminals. The city council recently approved a $2.5 million bond issue to pay for the lot and it intends to use the proceeds from civil asset forfeitures to service the bonds.
The Institute for Justice report also gives us a good look at the sort of cases that Albuquerque’s forfeiture machine generates. Claudeen Crank’s car was stolen by a stranger and taken on a drunken joy ride. After the police arrested the perpetrator, they seized her car on the grounds that it had been used in a crime and was thus “guilty” and subject to forfeiture.