2023 Legislative Update #2

Today marks the end of the second week of this year’s sixty-day legislative session. As we stated previously, any bill can be introduced for consideration during a 60-day session. We had anticipated that there would be several “tough-on-crime” bills introduced. Some of these proposals are retreads from previous sessions and others are brand new. We will need additional time to fully analyze the proposals before we report the details to you.

As of this writing, there are now 286 bills pending in the Senate and 239 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 issue that continues to loom is changes to New Mexico’s pre-trial release system. Due to sensationalized media coverage, the public believes that the police are doing their job apprehending the criminals only to have them released back into the community by irresponsible judges. The solution favored by law enforcement and prosecutors is to make it harder for defendants to be released pending trial.

Liberty and Justice Coalition is carefully analyzing the various bills and will take a stand in support or opposition, regardless of which political party is advocating for the legislation. In addition to what is already pending, a proposal pertaining to the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) has surfaced with the recent introduction of SB 215, sponsored by Senator Mark Moores. At this point, there hasn’t been enough analysis of the proposals currently pending for us to provide significant details other than HB 128, the chemical castration bill.

HB 128 – Chemical Castration

We will work to defeat HB 128, which is the chemical castration bill. 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. LJC has been working diligently and has provided key legislators and committee analysts a comprehensive analysis on this horrible proposal.

HB 128 key issues are:

  • Unidentified and Financial Ramifications
  • HB 128 Sweeps Too Broadly by Including the Full List of Offenses
  • HB 128 Is Drafted So Vaguely That Implementation Is Impossible
  • HB 128 Will Likely Be Challenged on Various Constitutional Grounds.

HB 128 was scheduled to be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday January 30th. At the request of the sponsor, it has been rescheduled for Friday February 3rd.

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.

Extremely long or indefinite statutes of limitations are problematic because memories fade over time. This is particularly relevant in “he said, she said” cases with no tangible evidence.

SB 82 is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has not scheduled a hearing on the bill. A related bill, i.e., SB 126, removes the statute of limitations for civil actions related to childhood sexual abuse. This is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on February 1, 2023, at 1:30 PM.

SB 123 – Pre-trial Detention Reform

This proposal is problematic because it places a new burden on the accused. It states, 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 he 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.

SB 123 is scheduled for consideration by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on February 1, 2023, at 1:30 PM.

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.

This bill proposes changes to the three-strike sentencing rules (31-18-3 NMSA) by:

  • redefining “violent felony” by increasing the number of felonies from five to twelve,
  • eliminating the possibility of parole to the existing mandatory life sentence, and
  • including convictions by minors of the redefined violent felonies.

​​​​​​​The provision increasing the number of felonies considered as violent is presented with no justification as to how public safety is enhanced. This amounts to little more than a laundry list that ignores the financial impacts of increasing prison populations. Similarly, there is no evidence-based rationale for eliminating the possibility of parole. Including felonies committed before the age of 18 runs counter to current criminal justice reform efforts.

HB 58 is scheduled for consideration by the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee on February 1, 2023, at 1:30 PM.

SB 215 – Establish Crime of Bestiality

LJC has not yet conducted a comprehensive analysis of this bill. While LJC does not strongly object to creating the crime of bestiality, the bill includes a provision to require listing on the sex offense registry. The registry is ostensibly intended to increase public safety, and we are dubious that most animals will be checking the DPS website before interacting with humans. Registration has little relationship to the crime of bestiality, particularly in the context of this bill. Even more troubling is that the crime of aggravated bestiality would require lifetime registration which includes re-registration every 90 days. Sex offender registration is unconstitutional in our view and LJC will continue our opposition to any new offenses being included on the list of registerable offenses. LJC will continue to analyze the implications of this legislation. SB 215 is currently before the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee, which has not scheduled a hearing on the bill.

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