NM Senate OKs bill to stop forcing police to erase evidence

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A measure that would stop police from having to destroy seized electronic evidence obtained through a search warrant but not the target of an investigation has unanimously passed the New Mexico Senate.

View all (2)

The proposal approved Sunday seeks to fix a bill passed in 2019 that required law enforcement to wipe out some digital evidence. The requirement may have affected some pending cases in Albuquerque, where crime has soared in recent years.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said the change is needed because law enforcement has no choice under current law but to eradicate certain digital evidence after 30 days.

“The problem is that law enforcement oftentimes has multiple investigations against the same person,” Ivey-Soto said.

The new bill allows police to seal the seized electronic evidence and get a court order to use it in another unrelated investigation.

The measure gained steam in the final days of the New Mexico legislative session after district attorneys and representatives from the city of Albuquerque and the American Civil Liberties Union urged lawmakers to mend the 2018 law that has sparked confusion among police and prosecutors. The 2018 measure was passed through the “rocket docket,” a bundle of bills that were fast-tracked to the governor's desk.

The lastest proposal now moves to the New Mexico House, which has until Thursday to push it through committee and the full chamber.

Crime remains a hot topic in the Legislature as Albuquerque, the state's most populous city, has experienced a spike in violent and property crimes in recent years. FBI statistics show Albuquerque had a violent crime rate of 1,365 per 100,000 residents in 2018. The national rate was about 369 violent crimes per 100,000 residents that year.

Last year, the country of Uruguay issued a warning to its citizens about traveling to Albuquerque.

___

Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

___

This story has been corrected to say “rocket docket” passed in 2019, not 2018.