Over three years after Gov. Susana Martinez signed historic legislation that abolished civil forfeiture, the practice continues in Albuquerque. The city has asserted that, as a city, it is not required to follow state law.
That remarkable legal theory is wearing thin: A recent opinion from U.S. District Judge James Browning found that state forfeiture law applies to Albuquerque. In other words, the city is not above the law.
Now Mayor Tim Keller is proposing to reform Albuquerque’s forfeiture program. In a recent editorial – “There’s a middle ground to booting DWI seizures” – this newspaper rightly applauded Mayor Keller’s resolve. The Albuquerque Journal has called for forfeiture reform in the past – including supporting the 2015 state law that abolished civil forfeiture – and the paper’s reporting has played an important role in uncovering the program’s flaws.
The editorial goes astray, however, when it suggests that Mayor Keller should aim for a “middle ground” to “strike a good balance between protecting the public and respecting property rights.” Respectfully, the New Mexico Legislature struck that balance when it unanimously passed the 2015 reforms. What Albuquerque needs to do is follow the law.