We had anticipated that this year’s session would be dueling get-tough on crime proposals. As we approach the mid-point of the session, that has proven to be the case. The cutoff for introduction of legislation is February 2nd which means more bills are yet to come.
Crime has been an issue in New Mexico for several years and now many have gotten on the bandwagon of cracking down on those who are accused of breaking the law. The governor stated, “Living in a safe and healthy community is the right of every New Mexican, and these are smart proposals that get and keep the worst of the worst off of New Mexico streets.”
Liberty and Justice Coalition has been analyzing the governor’s proposals as well as those put forward by other legislators. We are not convinced that some of these are smart proposals at all. As we stated last week, we still fear there could be a proposal pertaining to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). You can be assured that we will work to alter or defeat proposals that we believe are not in the long-term interest of our state, regardless of which political party is promoting the legislation.
At the end of the second week there are already 198 bills pending in the Senate and 180 in the House of Representatives. The issue generating the most controversy is reform of New Mexico’s pre-trial release system. Albuquerque attorney Ashley Reymore-Cloud was a guest on the Registry Matters Podcast last week. You can listen here RM212: Accused and Held Without Bond Explained – YouTube Ashley discussed in great detail the proposals and her opinion that both are unconstitutional.
As we stated in last week’s update, the public is being led to believe that the police are doing their job apprehending the criminals only to have them released on their own recognizance to go out and commit new crimes. The solution that everyone is touting to be proposed is to make it harder for those accused of crimes be released pending trial. Another issue that has surfaced again is the statute of limitations for civil actions pertaining to allegations of sex crimes. The victims’ advocates have been relentless in their pursuit of abolition of the statute of limitations. SB 117 has been filed already which would essentially accomplish that objective if passed.
There are likely some horrible provisions tucked into many of these proposals that need to be identified. For example, look at HB 27 which would reform the pre-trial detention to include a “presumption of dangerousness.” This is problematic because the defendant has the burden of rebutting a presumption that he/she is dangerous based merely on the charge(s). Take a look at the offenses on the list of presumptive dangerous offenses. You will note that there are some sexual offenses on the list.
LJC’s Watch List
SB 117 – Eliminating the Civil Statute of Limitations for All Childhood Sexual Abuse Crimes. Fortunately, this bill has not moved yet which means time is of the essence for the proponents to get it scheduled for hearings. This is a proposal that will come back year after year until something eventually passes.
HB 5 & HB 27 Pre-trial Detention Reform
Much has been made about how pre-trial release has been granted since the reform of bail in New Mexico. There are two bills pending that will change the existing burden from the prosecution to the accused to demonstrate that the accused should be detained pending trial. They propose a “rebuttable presumption” which will make it more difficult for certain defendants awaiting trial to be released into the community. A “rebuttable presumption” means that the defendant will have the burden of proof to argue that they should be granted conditions of release awaiting trial rather than the state having the burden of proof to argue the defendant should be detained awaiting trial. LJC has serious concerns, and we will be working to improve or kill the proposed changes.
HB 5: This bill was heard in the House Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee and received a “Do Pass” recommendation. It is now before the House Judiciary Committee waiting to be scheduled
HB 27: This bill is schedule to be heard by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Thursday.
HB 25: Change the Statute of Limitations for 2nd Degree. This legislation is dead for this session because it was not determined to be germane for this session. In order for a bill to be considered in a short session, it must have a message from the governor. This bill did not.
HB 26 – Drug Trafficking with a Firearm
This bill aims to create a new crime of “unlawful carrying of a firearm while drug trafficking”. Rather than an enhancement to the criminal code in place, this creates a separate crime with the goal of stiffening the current misdemeanor of “unlawful carrying of a firearm” that would have otherwise been charged. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Thursday.
HB 28 – Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Similar to HB 26, this bill aims to further stiffen criminal penalties surrounding illegal firearm usage. Our current law on the books calls for an 18-month prison sentence for a felon in possession of a firearm while this bill aims to make it a 5-year prison sentence. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Thursday where we expect it to be received favorably.
HB 31 – Three Strikes Law Expansion
With all of the concern surrounding rising crime rates in the state, this bill aims to address it by adding more crimes to New Mexico’s targeted “Three Strikes” law and removing the ability for a person sentenced to life under this statute to receive parole. It also adds more crimes to its qualifying violent felonies. This bill is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee to determine if it’s germane.
As we stated earlier, there will certainly be more legislation introduced prior to the deadline which is the close of session on Wednesday February 2nd. We will continue to identify impact legislation as it is introduced to the roundhouse.
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