State senator plans to introduce bill to change bail reform in NM
May 21, 2019 10:29 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- State Senator Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, has pledged to sponsor a bill in the next legislative session to reform the bail system.
Candelaria said he’s seen enough violence.
In 2017, there were 75 homicides in Albuquerque. In 2018, 66 homicides occurred in the city. And from January to May 2019, APD has responded to 26 homicides.
“The data is in— and the data is an uptick in violent crime, it's an uptick in people feeling afraid to live in this city, it's an uptick in the murder rate and gun violence rate, and unfortunately it has taken deaths and high-profile murders of good, promising young people in our community for folks to step up and say- the jury is in— something is wrong,” Candelaria said.
Candelaria partly blames the bail amendment, passed in 2016 by voters, for the metro's crime plague.
The intention of the amendment was to ensure non-violent defendants, who could not afford bail, would not get stuck in jail for months or years waiting for a trial.
However, prosecutors were left with a task. They have to ask for a hearing if they think a suspect is dangerous and should be kept in jail while he or she awaits trial. During that hearing, it’s on the prosecutor to prove to a judge the dangerousness of a person.
Data from the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office shows more than half of the time, the request for pre-trial detention is denied.
In the last two-and-a-half years, judges have allowed 478 suspects of violent crimes return to the streets on court-supervision.
“Right now, the burden rests wholly on the state,” Candelaria said. “The state has to prove by clear and convincing evidence that any person who is charged with a crime, regardless if it’s shoplifting, or the murder of a UNM baseball student in cold blood at 2 a.m. on Central Avenue, it's our burden as the people of New Mexico to prove that person is a danger to society.”
Candelaria said, in his view, that’s wrong. He thinks a person who has committed murder, raped a child or is accused of other violent acts should bear the responsibility of proving why they should be released before a trial.
In the next legislative session, Candelaria plans to introduce legislation to allow New Mexico voters to change the bail reform amendment
KOB 4’s Chris Ramirez asked Candelaria whether his proposal turns the constitution on its head in terms of not giving the suspect the presumption of innocence before a trial.
Candelaria said it’s an important question and added that the state is in “uncharted territory.”
“What we do know is that the current system is failing the City of Albuquerque and I'm going to come out and say that very bluntly,” Candelaria said.
Candelaria also said he may have to convince people in his own party to support his proposal.
“When I became a legislator, I took an oath to the state and the constitution, I've never taken an oath to a political party and I never will take an oath to a political party,” Candelaria said. “In the end of the day, we have to put common sense and public safety above political party.”
Most Democrats in the Roundhouse have defended bail reform and believe New Mexico is safer because of it.
They argue, once a judge determines someone is dangerous, no amount of money can release them from pre-trial detention.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth told Santa Fe radio station KTRC that he doesn’t believe the amendment led to a crime wave in Albuquerque.
“This idea that this amendment is what has triggered what happened in Albuquerque, I disagree fundamentally and in fact,” Wirth said. I would argue this amendment is what is allowing those dangerous defendants to be held.”
Candelaria has an uphill climb to convince his colleagues to see things his way.
“I'm really calling upon people to grow up, stop blaming everyone, stop being so concerned about your poll ratings, and actually start taking action to address this problem,” Candelaria said. “Do what you can do as a legislator. I can propose a bill. That is what I am going to do in January. If you disagree with me, tell me why i am wrong and come up with a better idea.”
Updated: May 21, 2019 10:29 PM
Created: May 21, 2019 09:29 PM
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