New Mexico

Policing for Profit

New Mexico earns an A- for its civil forfeiture laws

Higher bar to forfeit property and conviction required

Stronger protections for innocent third-party property owners

No forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

State Forfeiture Laws

In 2015, New Mexico enacted sweeping reforms that abolished civil forfeiture and replaced it with criminal forfeiture. New Mexico’s forfeiture laws are now the best in the country, earning the state an A- law grade. In order to forfeit property now, the government must first convict its owner of a crime. It must then tie the property to that crime with clear and convincing evidence in criminal court. New Mexico’s reforms also shift the innocent owner burden to the government, which must disprove an innocent owner claim by providing clear and convincing evidence that the person had knowledge of the crime giving rise to the forfeiture. Finally, a full 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds must be deposited into the state’s general fund, eliminating law enforcement’s motive to police for profit.

New Mexico’s new forfeiture laws require law enforcement agencies to file annual forfeiture reports with the Department of Public Safety, which will have to publish them on its website starting in 2016. However, without a statutory reporting requirement prior to 2015, no state forfeiture data were available for this report.

State Law Sources

Standard of proofClear and convincing evidence and a criminal conviction are required to forfeit property.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-4.
Innocent owner burdenWhen a person claims to be an innocent owner and shows an ownership interest, the government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the person had actual knowledge of the underlying crime giving rise to the forfeiture.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-7.1(D).
Profit incentive100 percent of proceeds must be deposited in the general fund.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-7(B).
Reporting requirementsAgencies are required to submit annual seizure and forfeiture reports to the Department of Public Safety, which must aggregate the reports and, beginning on April 1, 2016, publish them on its website.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-9.

New Mexico ranks 25th for federal forfeiture, with over $41 million in Department of Justice equitable sharing proceeds from 2000 to 2013.

State Forfeiture Data

No data available. New Mexico’s new forfeiture laws require agencies to provide the Department of Public Safety with annual forfeiture reports, which will be published online beginning April 1, 2016.

Federal Equitable Sharing

New Mexico law enforcement’s use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program earns the state 25th place in a national ranking, with agencies having received more than $41 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds between the 2000 and 2013 calendar years. The state’s rank is likely to improve in the future, however: New Mexico’s 2015 reforms prohibit law enforcement from transferring property worth less than $50,000 to the federal government for forfeiture and require that all proceeds be deposited in the state’s general fund. This rule effectively disqualifies New Mexico from participating in federal equitable sharing since DOJ guidelines require that equitable sharing funds be spent solely by law enforcement on law enforcement purposes. Finally, New Mexico law enforcement agencies also received more than $29 million in Treasury Department equitable sharing proceeds between the 2000 and 2013 fiscal years.

(calendar years)
(fiscal years)
Average Per Year$2,945,704$2,083,571