City’s Civil Asset Forfeiture System Ruled Unconstitutional
Article from Reason by C.J. Ciaramella.
A federal judge has ruled that Albuquerque’s civil asset forfeiture program violated residents’ due process rights by forcing them to prove their innocence to retrieve their cars. Under civil forfeiture laws, police can seize property suspected of being connected to criminal activity, even if the owner isn’t charged with a crime.
The city of Albuquerque “has an unconstitutional institutional incentive to prosecute forfeiture cases, because, in practice, the forfeiture program sets its own budget and can spend, without meaningful oversight, all of the excess funds it raises from previous years,” U.S. District Judge James O. Browning wrote in an order filed Saturday. “Thus, there is a ‘realistic possibility’ that forfeiture officials’ judgment ‘will be distorted by the prospect of institutional gain’—the more revenues they raise, the more revenues they can spend.”
The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, filed the lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of Arlene Harjo, whose car was seized after her son drove it while drunk.
“It’s a scam and a rip-off,” Harjo told Reason at the time. “They’re taking property from people who just loan a vehicle to someone. It’s happened a lot. Everybody I’ve talked to has had it happen to them or somebody they know, and everybody just pays.”
Read the entire article at Reason.
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