Las Cruces, NM- When a person is charged with the DWI in New Mexico, they face a number of consequences. Jail and as suspended license are two of the many penalties a person faces for a first or second DWI arrest, but there is another consequence that has been grabbing national headlines and that is civil forfeiture.
Civil forfeiture is a common practice, especially when the arrestee is charged with the serious crime and is practiced by law enforcement agencies across the country. But this controversial practice is coming under fire and was the subject of a New York Times investigative piece after a New Mexico city attorney was caught on camera boasting about seizing one man’s Mercedes after he was caught driving under the influence.
In a September law enforcement conference, Albuquerque city attorney Pete Connelly was caught on tape discuss how excited law enforcement in the city was when they managed to seize a 2008 Mercedes after the driver was caught drinking and driving.
“The cops were undercover it was like ‘ah!’ ” Connelly gleefully said in the video, according to KRQE. “Just as he’s about to touch the car, our police officer goes ‘Whack!’ You’re under arrest.’” Connelly added, “So we thought ‘Damn! We got a 2008 Mercedes Benz. This is going to go to auction. This is going to be great.’”
The practice of civil forfeiture for DWIs in New Mexico is not new by any means, but Connelly’s cavalier comments put the issue back in the spotlight. Law enforcement in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe and other cities are allowed to seize a person’s vehicle if they are charged for a repeat DWI offense.
The Times article caught the attention of civil rights group, Institute for Justice, who said this practice is troubling because a person can have their vehicle seized even if they aren’t convicted; an arrest is enough. Those charged with DWI can fight to get their vehicle back, but it cost more than a vehicle is worth.
The Times article said police have wish list of items they like to seize in criminal cases. Items like cars and flat screens are at the top of the list since they yield more money. Police are told to avoid jewelry sand computers since those items are harder to sell.
We all know driving under the influence is wrong, but it’s a mistake many people make for whatever reason. Maybe the offender doesn’t realize how intoxicated they really are; they are unaware that they are legally drunk. Drunken drivers aren’t capable of making a wise or rational decision and when they get busted they need a Las Cruces DWI attorney working on their defense.
With a strong DWI defense, the offender may be able to get their car back and avoid the more severe DWI penalties. Your New Mexico DWI attorney will work tirelessly on your case and do whatever it takes to help you get lenient sentence or avoid conviction altogether. Don’t allow fool yourself into thinking you can tackle a DWI without expert legal advice.