On Friday, New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez signed into law HB560, which abolishes civil asset forfeiture.
The bill was passed by the Arizona Senate on the last day of the legislative session. Had it not passed, it might not have been looked at for another two years due to the short legislative sessions of New Mexico.
Martinez, in a letter to House Speaker Don L Tripp wrote, “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.”
“I must make it clear that ‘policing for profit‘ is an overused, oversimplified, and cynical term that, in my opinion, disrespects our law enforcement officers,” she added. “These heroes in our communities take on extraordinary risk, face incredible harm, and operate with tremendous courage, and this catch phrase improperly questions their motives and disregards their desire to serve and protect.”
Governor Martinez also warned, “It is also dangerous to discount the role that funds acquired through forfeitures have played in keeping our communities safe and in protecting our officers from harm. We cannot allow this new law to undermine our efforts to combat crime throughout this state. With this passage of this legislation, it is more critical than ever before that every county and municipality, as well as the state legislature, makes a stronger commitment to fully fund our law enforcement agencies so that they can continue undertaking complex investigations, protecting the public, and protecting themselves while doing so.”
Civil Asset forfeiture is completely different from criminal asset forfeiture. With civil asset forfeiture, a property owner doesn’t have to be found guilty of a crime, or even charged with a crime, in order to lose one’s cash, car, home or other property.
In other words, previously the police could merely steal your property, no matter what it was, without charging you or convicting you of any crime. One has to wonder why there is a law for this. Isn’t stealing not illegal in New Mexico already? Not only that, but how does that comport to Article V of the US Constitution, which reads:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
According to Casey Harper, the new law makes two important changes:
- Currently, when police seize property they can keep it even if you are innocent. Under the new law, police can still take property from you for a short period, but would need a conviction or a guilty plea in order to keep it.
- The law changes the incentive structure for police. Under the new law, if police do get a guilty verdict and your property is forfeited, it goes to the state’s general fund rather than the police department’s budget. The difference at least adds a layer of bureaucracy and oversight between police and the funds they seize.
I’ll go further, God gives a simple command, “You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15)”
Frankly, there was no need for this law, but this is what happens when men abandon God’s Laws and start manufacturing their own. As a result, if God’s Law concerning this issue were followed, not only would there be no need for the distinguishing of civil asset forfeiture and criminal asset forfeiture, but neither of them would be applied. Instead, the law’s requirements of restitution would be imposed. Quite frankly, the state has no business taking anyone’s property for any reason. If you think otherwise, then congratulations, you are already onboard with one of the ten planks Karl Marx had in mind for Marxism in the society.
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