The Associated Press & Patrick Hayes
Updated: November 20, 2019 06:17 PM
Created: November 20, 2019 02:40 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico Republicans have unveiled a proposal aimed at changing how state judges decide who remains jailed before trial.
State Rep. Bill Rehm said Wednesday he will push a bill that would force judges to consider the seriousness of the suspect’s charge and criminal history when considering release.
The Albuquerque Republican says he will work with Democrats to come with a bipartisan proposal to safeguard against violent defendants being released from jail before trial.
The move comes after a state judge ordered a defendant charged in the 2016 brutal killing and dismemberment of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl to be released from jail pending his trial.
"There were a lot of unintended consequences that occurred out of this legislation and now we're seeing those and we got to fix it."
Rehm told KOB 4 his bill will also give a judge the option to send certain drug-related criminals to rehab instead of keeping them behind bars.
New Mexico Democrats are said to be working on their legislation aimed at keeping violent offenders off the streets.
“Democrats are working to get law enforcement the tools they need to address crime and violent offenders, and are also pushing for broader criminal justice reform and behavioral health treatment to get at the root of crime in our communities,” said a spokesperson with House Democrats.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, the top prosecutor in New Mexico's busiest court district, wants lawmakers to tackle a similar proposal.
But not everyone thinks the law needs to change.
“While there are heart-wrenching and awful cases that make us question if the system is working, we can’t let our emotions drive us to make laws that take away our freedoms and our neighbors’ freedoms,” said Albuquerque District Defender Jeff Rein.
“This idea to make a person prove they are safe and innocent is not the way to solve our problems,” he added. “The voters, courts and the legislature have already given prosecutors the tools they need to keep truly dangerous people in jail. And judges are willing to hold dangerous people in jail, especially in the places where prosecutors are taking the appropriate actions.”
Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, also responded to the proposed changes.
“The Judiciary has not seen the details of Rep. Rehm’s proposal or taken a position on the legislation. However, researchers at the University of New Mexico have looked at similar suggestions to create legal presumptions for the detention of defendants and found insufficient support for the argument that it would improve public safety. UNM researchers compared cases in Bernalillo County in which there was no request for pretrial detention and cases where a detention request was denied. They looked at how often the defendants were re-arrested for another offense and how often defendants failed to show up for their next court hearing. A July 2019 memo by the researchers stated that 'Our review did not find support for the use of rebuttable presumptions for public safety improvements.' ''
“Under the existing pretrial justice system when setting conditions of release for defendants, judges are already required to consider a wide range of factors, including the seriousness and circumstances of the charged crime, a defendant’s criminal history, the person’s history of drug or alcohol use and past record of court appearances.”
(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)