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New Mexico

New Mexico

New Mexico earns an A for its forfeiture laws:

Standard of Proof

Highest bar to forfeit: New Mexico has only criminal forfeiture.

Innocent Owner Burden

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.

Financial Incentive

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.

Recent Reforms

  • (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.

Recommendations

  • 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
2000–2019

Year New Mexico Forfeiture Revenues Dept. of Justice Equitable Sharing Proceeds Treasury Equitable Sharing Proceeds Total
2000 Unknown $541,659 $548,000 $1,089,659
2001 Unknown $1,157,905 $41,000 $1,198,905
2002 Unknown $2,272,066 $108,000 $2,380,066
2003 Unknown $2,319,114 $136,000 $2,455,114
2004 Unknown $2,829,601 $19,000 $2,848,601
2005 Unknown $3,017,396 $117,000 $3,134,396
2006 Unknown $2,616,795 $3,000 $2,619,795
2007 Unknown $3,759,580 $8000 $3,767,580
2008 Unknown $3,282,329 $178,000 $3,460,329
2009 Unknown $3,121,539 $3,000 $3,124,539
2010 Unknown $5,539,453 $20,000 $5,559,453
2011 Unknown $3,109,326 $220,000 $3,329,326
2012 Unknown $1,388,231 $432,000 $1,820,231
2013 Unknown $5,352,116 $202,000 $5,554,116
2014 Unknown $2,998,052 $984,000 $3,982,052
2015 $126,979 $2,140,544 $637,000 $2,904,523
2016 $203,922 $202,220 $0 $406,142
2017 $17,920 $90,710 $0 $108,630
2018 $28,893 $400,630 $0 $429,523
2019 Unavailable $965,409 $0 $965,409
Totals $377,714 $47,104,675 $3,656,000 $51,138,389

All revenue figures include both civil and criminal forfeitures. Revenues are not adjusted for inflation.

New Mexico's Forfeiture Transparency and Accountability Report Card

Tracking Seized Property

D-

Accounting for Forfeiture Fund Spending

N/A

Statewide Forfeiture Reports

B

Accessibility of Forfeiture Records

A

Penalties for Failure to File a Report

F*

Financial Audits of Forfeiture Accounts

N/A

These grades are not applicable as New Mexico does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend forfeiture revenue.

* 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

Median Value

UNKNOWN

New Mexico does not report property-level data necessary to calculate median forfeiture value.

Property Types

UNKNOWN

Reported forfeitures were too few for further analysis.

Civil vs. Criminal

N/A

New Mexico processes all forfeitures under criminal law.

Expenditures

N/A

New Mexico does not permit law enforcement agencies to spend forfeiture revenue.

Data Notes and Legal Sources

Data Notes

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.

Legal Sources

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).

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