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A few hours ago, Governor Susana Martinez of New Mexico signed groundbreaking legislation to strengthen the protection of individual rights in her state. The bill, H.B. 560, requires a criminal conviction in order for law enforcement to be able to use civil asset forfeiture to seize private property.
Civil asset forfeiture is the process by which government agents can take your property if you are suspected of a crime, but without formally filing charges. In effect, the government charges the property itself with a crime, and the burden is then on the citizen to prove his property’s innocence. Such broad powers for law enforcement clearly violate the Fifth Amendment right to due process. Law enforcement can all too easily abuse this procedure as a way to persecute innocent citizens or to self-fund their offices with forfeited assets.
Governor Martinez, as a former prosecutor, realized the danger these laws pose and wisely signed the bill the legislature sent her. All of us at FreedomWorks are extremely grateful for her help in promoting freedom for all the citizens of New Mexico.
FreedomWorks has been working hard to promote H.B 560 at every step in the process. Our community of 32,000 liberty activists in the state made nearly 5,000 phone calls to the governor's office, asking for reform to these damaging asset forfeiture policies.
The sign of a good leader is a willingness to listen to her constituents. Governor Martinez has proven that she is such a leader, and we thank her for her dedication to serving New Mexicans and reining in government power when it becomes excessive. We only wish more governors and legislators were so willing to stand up to established power and do the right thing.