ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A lawsuit says Albuquerque’s vehicle seizure policy is unconstitutional and violates state forfeiture laws.

The city can seize vehicles from people with suspended or revoked licenses and drunken driving suspects who have a record of the offense, the Albuquerque Journal reported .

Arlene Harjo is suing to end the practice and get back the vehicle her son was borrowing when he was stopped in April.

“I didn’t have any reason to believe that he would (drink and drive),” Harjo said in a recent interview. “He used the car before and he never had any problems.”

Harjo is represented by a team of New Mexico attorneys and the Institute for Justice.

“Arlene is the quintessential innocent owner,” said Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney for the institute. “She didn’t do anything wrong. The only person accused of a crime is Tino and she’s the one being punished.”

City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said state forfeiture laws do not apply to Albuquerque’s policy.

“The city’s program is a narrowly-tailored nuisance abatement law to protect the public from dangerous, repeat DWI offenders and the vehicles they use to commit DWI offenses, placing innocent citizens’ lives and property at risk,” she said in an email. “The ordinance provides protections for innocent owners to get their vehicles back at an early stage in the process. Like all cases, we will review and evaluate this case’s individual circumstances.”

Documents show auctioning seized vehicles or charging for their return brought the city over $8 million from 2010 through 2014.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

VIAThe Associated Press
SHARE
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.