Report: New Mexico Shows Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Works
The Institute for Justice has released the latest edition of its Policing for Profit report, and it shows law enforcement continues to pre-emptively seize billions of dollars’ worth of cash and goods from people, many of whom are never charged with a crime. The funds are routinely used to pad the budgets of law enforcement agencies.
The report grades the states and the feds on their civil asset forfeiture laws and, perhaps not surprisingly, those grades are terrible:
“Policing for Profit” grades state and federal civil forfeiture laws based on the portion of proceeds directed to law enforcement coffers and the protections offered property owners. Thirty-five states and the federal government earn a D+ or worse.
There is one bright, shining exception: New Mexico, which the Institute notes “eliminated civil forfeiture and directed all forfeiture proceeds to the state’s general fund” in 2015.
The New Mexico experience has also put to rest the arguments asset forfeiture proponents use to stifle reforms:
Importantly, New Mexico’s reform has not compromised public safety, according to a new analysis published in the report. Compared to neighboring Texas and Colorado, New Mexico’s crime rates remained steady in the months and years following the reform, suggesting forfeiture does not deter crime and law enforcement are able to do their jobs without forfeiture proceeds.
Imagine that. Ending the unconscionable incentive asset forfeiture creates for law enforcement to seize first, and maybe ask questions later, has been difficult. And it’s easy to see why — there’s just too much money in it.
That’s wrong. Worse, it’s corrosive both to the rule of law and individual liberty. You can read the entire Institute for Justice report here.