Policing for Profit
New Mexico earns an A for its forfeiture laws.
Highest bar to forfeit: New Mexico has only criminal forfeiture.
Stronger protections for the innocent: The government must prove by clear and convincing evidence that a third-party owner knew about the criminal use of their property.
No profit incentive: All forfeiture proceeds, beyond some retained to cover related expenses, go to the general fund.
The letter grade reflects the state's forfeiture laws as of December 2020. When we become aware of relevant reforms, we are updating the standard of proof, innocent owner burden and financial incentive language above, but we are not updating the letter grade.
- (2019) HB 312: Formally extended the abolition of civil forfeiture to cover municipalities; added new procedural protections; permitted law enforcement to keep part of the proceeds from the sale of forfeited and abandoned property to cover related expenses; strengthened transparency requirements.
- (2018) State Court Ruling in Espinoza v. City of Albuquerque: Held that Albuquerque’s vehicle forfeiture program was preempted by the state’s 2015 reform.
- (2018) Federal Court Rulings in Harjo v. City of Albuquerque: Declared Albuquerque’s vehicle forfeiture program unconstitutional after concluding it violated due process by creating an unconstitutional incentive to forfeit and forcing owners to prove their innocence.
- Fully close the equitable sharing loophole
- Strengthen transparency and accountability requirements
State and Federal Forfeiture Revenues, 2000-2019
Between 2015 and 2018, New Mexico law enforcement agencies forfeited more than $377,000 under state law. Between 2000 and 2019, they generated an additional $50.8 million from federal equitable sharing, for a total of at least $51.1 million in forfeiture revenue. New Mexico ranks 4th for its participation in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program. The state also directs all forfeiture proceeds, including equitable sharing proceeds, to the general fund, effectively eliminating agencies’ incentive to participate.
At least $51.1 million in state and federal forfeiture revenue
|Year||New Mexico Forfeiture Revenues||Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds||Total||
$0 ↦ $5,559,453
Department of Justice
New Mexico Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card
|D-||Tracking Seized Property|
|N/A †||Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending|
|B||Statewide Forfeiture Reports|
|A||Accessibility of Forfeiture Records|
|F *||Penalties for Failure to File a Report|
|N/A †||Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts|
* Agencies must file even when they have nothing to report.
For full transparency and accountability grades, visit www.ij.org/TransparencyReportCards.
Forfeitures Under New Mexico Law: Key Facts
New Mexico does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.
Reported forfeitures were too few for further analysis.
Civil vs. CriminalN/A
New Mexico processes all forfeitures under criminal law.
New Mexico does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend forfeiture revenue.
Property-level data are from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety website. Figures represent calendar-year forfeitures and include currency forfeited and market value of forfeited property. Reported forfeitures were too few for further analysis. Equitable sharing data are from DOJ’s and Treasury’s annual forfeiture reports. Due to differences in reporting and accounting practices, state figures may not match aggregate numbers produced by the state or cover the same 12-month period as the federal data.
Standard of proof: Criminal forfeiture.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-4.
Innocent owner burden: Government. When 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).
Financial incentive: No financial incentive. All proceeds must be deposited in the general fund,
though agencies can retain part of the proceeds from criminal forfeiture to cover related expenses.
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-27-7(B).