Proposal to rework New Mexico’s bail laws advances

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SANTA FE, N.M. – A House committee advanced a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday morning that would rework some of the state’s bail laws.

But it was a constitutional amendment on bail reform that put us where we are. So why would this proposal be any different?

House Joint Resolution 9‘s sponsors say this is all about increasing options.

Right now, the state Constitution says suspects must be released before trial unless they are found to be a danger to the community.

The Republican lawmakers behind this proposal believe that the system is not always keeping the most dangerous people behind bars.

Here’s what they want to change:

  • First, state lawmakers would get to decide which conditions, or crimes should warrant pretrial detention.
  • Second, district and magistrate judges would be allowed to make detention decisions without a formal request from prosecutors.
  • And lastly, the proposed amendment would expand the types of suspects who can be held before trial.

Right now, only people charged with felonies can be detained. 

Clovis Rep. Andrea Reeb is one of the bill’s sponsors. She says this proposal is what New Mexicans thought they were voting for a few years ago when bail reform was last put on the ballot.

She believes they should still be part of this decision.

“Communities in New Mexico are not happy with the way things are going, and they should have a say in it. So I don’t understand any opposition to why they would not want to put this back on the ballot, so that the everyday citizen can decide if this is the right thing for them,” said Reeb. 

This proposal comes as state lawmakers take a serious look at the pretrial detention system.

The House Judiciary Committee – where this proposal is headed next – heard from court administrators Wednesday about the so-called “revolving door” of criminals that are arrested, released, and commit violent crimes.

“I would just like to observe that the data you presented does not paint a picture, that’s what’s actually happening. That we have a system that’s largely effective, that when district attorneys move to detain a violent defendant, they’re largely successful,” said state Rep. Matthew McQueen.  

Committee members noted what happens after suspects are released also needs to be addressed, and know there’s likely no single solution to fully address these concerns.

Track HJR 9 during the legislative session.