New judicial guidelines under scrutiny after suspected burglar's release | KOB 4

New judicial guidelines under scrutiny after suspected burglar's release

Kasia Gregorczyk
July 13, 2017 07:01 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- More is becoming known about the new tools and regulations judges use in deciding how to release an accused criminal offender.


Take 23-year-old Nicholas Smith for example. Prior to Smith being charged with five counts of burglary and five counts of larceny for his alleged repeat visits to Green Jeans Farmery, he has a minor criminal history. He also hasn't been skipping any court appearances recently.

Those two facts put Smith in "Box I" on the Arnold tool, a risk assessment provided to courts. The suggestion, based on that tool, tells the judge to let him go with some type of pre-trial services. That's what pro-tem Judge Kevin Fitzwater had to do, even if he had wanted to do more.

"I don't have any authority to hold him without bond. I did consider holding him with bond, but according to the new rules given to the court on the first of July I don't have the authority to do that either. Unless he's a risk of flight, bond is inappropriate and should not be imposed," he said.

Those new rules Fitzwater mentioned in court Tuesday came down from the New Mexico Supreme Court. They specifically state that unless someone has a proven track record being a flight risk, the judge must release them on whatever terms the new Arnold tool suggests.

"The Arnold tool really is considered the gold standard of risk assessment tools because so much research has gone into it and so much validation after it began being used," said Lisa Simpson, who does consulting work for Bernalillo County.

Simpson said the tool was designed so that judges could deviate from what it suggested if they felt strongly enough. But now with these new laws, the judge, in fact, can't stray from the tool.


Kasia Gregorczyk

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