Albuquerque continues to seize vehicles despite ruling

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The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — Albuquerque’s city attorney says the city can continue seizing vehicles of suspected drunken drivers because a New Mexico Supreme Court order applied to only one case.

In its order last week, the Supreme Court refused to consider the city’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling that the city’s DWI vehicle-forfeiture ordinance is unconstitutional.

However, City Attorney David Tourek said the Supreme Court’s order clearly applied to only the vehicle in one case, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Tourek said that means the city can still seize vehicles in other cases.

Attorney Colin Hunter won the earlier case and said the city is on shaky legal ground by continuing to seize vehicles.
It’s unwise, Hunter said, to operate the program “in the face of a clear ruling that the ordinance is unconstitutional on its face.”

District Judge Clay Campbell ruled last month that Albuquerque’s ordinance was unconstitutional because it lacked due process by not having a meaningful appeals process for innocent owners.

The judge said the ordinance doesn’t allow a vehicle owner to claim innocence if someone else was driving the vehicle and the owner didn’t know the driver would be drunk.

“Judge Campbell’s ruling is clear: The ordinance is . invalid,” Hunter said.