The New Mexico Legislature convened for a 30-day session this past Tuesday. This will be a sixty-day session which means any bill can be introduced for consideration. Lawmakers from both political parties say crime will be a dominant issue in the session, as it was in last year’s gubernatorial race. What remains to be seen is whether Democrats and Republicans can work together to come up with legislation that is carefully crafted and will make a difference. We anticipate that Democrats will pitch bills aimed at funding more programs to help educate and support the poor and those struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems, while Republicans will likely advocate for more “tough-on-crime” bills, such as stiffer charges and sentences for those who are convicted of criminal behavior.
At the end of the first week there are already 166 bills pending in the Senate and 132 in the House of Representatives. This is a huge number, and the period for introduction of legislation doesn’t close until the mid-point of the session, which is February 16th. One of the larger issues looming is reform of New Mexico’s pre-trial release system. The public is being continuously told that the police are doing their job apprehending the criminals only to have them released on their own recognizance by irresponsible judges. One solution that is gaining popularity is to make it harder for defendants to be released pending trial. Another issue that has surfaced again is the statute of limitations pertaining to allegations of sex crimes. The victims’ advocates have been relentless in their pursuit of abolition of the statute of limitations.
Liberty and Justice Coalition will be carefully analyzing the governor’s proposals as well as those put forward by legislators, regardless of their political party. In addition to what is already pending, a proposal pertaining to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) could surface. We will work to alter or defeat proposals that we believe are not in the long-term interest of our state. At this point, there hasn’t been enough analysis of the proposals currently pending for us to provide significant details. In addition, we anticipate there will be a larger than normal number of bills this session due to the fact that the state’s coffers are bursting at the seams with new revenue.
There are likely some horrible provisions tucked into many of these proposals that need to be identified. For example, look at SB 123 which would reform the pre-trial detention to include a “presumption of dangerousness” for a long list of offenses. 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.
HB 128 – Chemical Castration
The legislation proposes “as a condition of parole, a court shall order a person convicted of a sex offense pursuant to Sections 30-9-11 through 30-9-13 NMSA 1978 to undergo chemical castration treatment in addition to any other punishment prescribed for that offense or any other provision of law.” LJC will adamantly oppose HB 128.
SB 82 – Statute of Limitations
This proposal would change the time period for initiation of prosecutions for a crime against a child under eighteen years of age. It states, no limitation shall exist, and prosecution of these crimes may commence at any time after the occurrence of the crime. Also, it states for a crime of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree against an adult, it would expand the time limit to within fifteen years from the time the crime was committed.”
SB 123 – Pre-trial Detention Reform
This proposal is problematic because it places a new burden on the accessed. It sates, subject to rebuttal by the defendant in a pretrial detention hearing requested by a prosecuting authority, it shall be presumed that the prosecution has proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is likely to pose a threat to the safety of others if released pending trial and that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed one of the enumerated offenses. 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 this proposal or kill this proposal.
HB 58-Three Strikes
This proposal would require when a defendant is convicted of a third violent felony, and each violent felony conviction is part of a separate transaction or occurrence, and at least the third violent felony conviction is in New Mexico shall be punished by a sentence of life imprisonment. LJC generally opposes 3-strike laws and will likely work to defeat this legislation.
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