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New Mexico ends qualified immunity

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamNew Mexico ends qualified immunity On The Trail: How marijuana went mainstream New Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor MORE (D) signed a bill Wednesday ending qualified immunity for all government workers, including police. 

Grisham signed the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which ends the use of qualified immunity as a defense for depriving a person of their civil rights, her office said.

Qualified immunity shields state and local police from civil suits unless they violated a clearly established constitutional right, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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New Mexico is the first state to end qualified immunity for all public bodies, the New Mexico House Democrats said on Twitter. However, it is not the only state to end the practice in some capacity.

Colorado banned the use of qualified immunity for police officers in June. New York City also ended qualified immunity for New York Police Department officers late last month.

The bill permits “an individual to bring a claim against a public body or person acting on behalf of or under the authority of a public body for violation of the individuals’ rights, privileges or immunities arising pursuant to the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of New Mexico,” according to its text.

These entities cannot “enjoy the defense of qualified immunity for causing the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the bill of rights of the constitution of New Mexico.”

The New Mexico House of Representatives passed the bill in February by a vote of 39-29, while the state senate passed it in March by a vote of 26-15, according to records on the state legislature’s website.

The law goes into effect on July 1 and claims from incidents prior to that date may not be brought.

Qualified immunity shields state and local police from liability unless they violated a clearly established civil right. It came under scrutiny last year amid a national conversation about police brutality sparked by the killings George Floyd and other Black Americans in police custody.