Judiciary implementing 24/7 alert system for defendants with GPS ankle monitors

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SANTA FE, N.M. – The New Mexico Judiciary on Monday announced a plan for 24/7 monitoring of an alert system for felony defendants ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor while awaiting trial in Bernalillo County.

A KOB 4 investigation in August found the Second Judicial District Court did not actively monitor the whereabouts of pretrial defendants who were ordered by a judge to wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Beginning in October, the Administrative Office of the Courts’s newly-hired pretrial services staff will oversee the alert system Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. – and on weekends and holidays.

The Second Judicial District Court and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court will monitor the system Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"We thank the Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for cooperating in our efforts to provide them with immediate notice of an arrest warrant issued for a high alert GPS violation at any time of the day or night," AOC Director Artie Pepin said. "We also appreciate the support from the District Attorney and District Public Defender who will also receive immediate notice of high alert arrest warrants."

When a "high alert" is received, monitoring staff will:

  • Investigate immediately, including calling the defendant to determine whether there has been a violation of the person’s conditions of pretrial release.
  • Request a bench warrant for the arrest of the defendant when there is an apparent violation of court-imposed restrictions. On-call judges in the District and Metro Courts will be available for issuing bench warrants after normal business hours.
  • Email bench warrants to law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and the defendant’s lawyer.
  • Call the crime victim and request a welfare check by law enforcement when appropriate.
  • Provide law enforcement with the defendant’s last known GPS coordinates when a bench warrant has been issued and the information is requested.

High alerts include when a defendant:

  • Leaves a restricted area, such as a house arrest address or a treatment facility
  • Travels to a prohibited area, known as an "exclusion zone"
  • Violates a curfew by one hour
  • Is suspected of tampering with or removing the GPS monitor or when the battery fails

Some alerts may be easily remedied, such as if a defendant passes through an "exclusion zone" while traveling for emergency medical assistance.

A contractor with Bernalillo County operates the system that sends alerts to court pretrial services programs about possible location violations by defendants with GPS devices.

"This improvement supports public safety by helping courts and law enforcement respond promptly to alerts 24/7 when an electronic monitor indicates defendants violated court-imposed restrictions on their movement in the community," Chief Justice Michael Vigil said.

The AOC’s after-hours alert system monitoring will be implemented with money allocated by the Legislature for expanding and improving pretrial services across the state. The Judiciary will seek funding during the 2022 legislative session to continue the program.