Judges make changes to tackle upswing in felony cases
January 22, 2018 06:25 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Albuquerque's crime epidemic is leaving the court system overloaded with cases, but a new rule has more judges weighing in to fight the problem.
There were 7,033 felony cases filed in Metro Court last year, about 500 more than in 2016. The numbers show an obvious upswing in crime, which has led to some concerns.
"To this point, there's just been so many of them. It's very difficult right now for the district attorney's office to prosecute everybody. You have to prioritize everything," said Metro Court Chief Judge Edward Benavidez.
All 16 Metro Court criminal division judges will add more to their plate, Benavidez said. Every week, judges will rotate to oversee preliminary examination hearings for felony cases, something they hadn't done before.
"We all feel that it's a service to the community. We're happy to be starting with this new procedure," Benavidez said.
Prior to the new law, the Bernalillo County District Attorney would bring a felony case before a grand jury. They'll still be able to do that, but Metro Court judges will now act as a filter for many of those cases. The judges can then decide if the felony case should be forwarded to the district attorney or decide if it can be pleaded down to a misdemeanor.
"This is going to be an effort to try and get them plead into a drug court program," Benavidez said. "I've been working with a drug court program for three years. We have tremendous success in rehabilitating individuals. You have to address the underlying cause."
Benavidez said it will be a few months before they see what kind of impact this will have on crime in our city and caseload at the courts.
Updated: January 22, 2018 06:25 PM
Created: January 22, 2018 12:14 PM
Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved