Laws reforming Montana and New Mexico’s civil asset forfeiture laws have officially taken effect.
Montana’s new law requires a criminal conviction before civil asset forfeiture can proceed, a drastic change from prior law which allows police to confiscate and obtain funding from assets seized, even if the individual has yet to be charged with a crime.
New Mexico’s new law goes even further, abolishing civil asset forfeiture for police altogether, requiring that all seizures go into the general fund.
Civil asset forfeiture is a tool used by police where they seize property suspected of being related to some form of criminal activity. The primary point of contention with this policy is that, in most instances, police can seize the property without first obtaining a conviction, or even charging someone with a crime. Police can then use the seized property to turn a profit, which goes directly to the police department.
In January, federal laws regarding civil asset forfeitures were reformed, though it didn’t effect state laws.