2023 Legislative Update #3

The sixty-day legislative session has ended its third week. As of this writing, there are 353 bills pending in the House of Representatives and 372 pending in the Senate. All bills are routed through relevant committees in each chamber and those committees provide recommendations to the full body as to whether or not the bill should be passed. While this is a somewhat time-consuming process, it can actually serve to prevent bad legislation from moving to the floor. HB 173 will be discussed more in this update. This proposal raises significant concerns, and it just came to our attention during the previous week. More bills are coming because the last date for introduction of new legislation is still more than a week away.

HB 128 – Chemical Castration

Many of the negative aspects of HB 128 regarding chemical castration were discussed in Legislative Update #2. Besides being ineffective in preventing sex crimes, chemical castration is an assault on human dignity that has adverse medical implications for the individual. Even if the procedure actually reduced recidivism, any belief that this measure would have an immediate effect is only wishful thinking. Since the requirement “shall” be ordered by a court along with “any other punishment”, ex post facto could preclude its application to persons currently incarcerated or on state parole. Any effects of the legislation would be delayed until future sex offenders are sentenced and have finished any term of incarceration. An attempt by the state to require the procedure of those already sentenced would likely result in legal challenges.

The bill is still pending consideration by the House Health & Human Services Committee (HHHC), and is not on the committee’s schedule as of 2/7/2023.

HB 173 – Forensic Pre-Trial Interviews of Minors

This proposal is of concern to LJC because pre-trial interviews are vital for determining if a case should move forward. The proposal reads in pertinent part, “A victim who is a child witness or an adjudicated incapacitated adult witness who has previously given a recorded statement as part of a forensic interview or in-court testimony regarding a criminal or noncriminal offense shall not be compelled to give a pretrial statement or pretrial interview.” Jennifer Burrill, a prominent defense attorney here in New Mexico, stated the following. “During the pretrial interviews, I found evidence that the girl’s parents were coaching her to say this happened. In fact, her parents had recordings of their daughter that stretched over the course of a month before the alleged crime was reported to law enforcement. This was a detail the child’s parents omitted when initially reporting the crime. As a result of this new information, we were able legally to obtain the recordings. They contained graphic accounts of the girl’s parents creating and coaching their daughter’s story…”

SB 82 – Statute of Limitations

SB 82 eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of certain sex crimes. This bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), but is yet to be scheduled for consideration.

A related bill, SB 126, eliminates the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits regarding childhood sexual abuse, and will be applied retroactively. SB 126 cleared the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC) with a unanimous “do pass” recommendation. The next stop for SB 126 is the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 123 – Pre-trial Detention Reform

The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee has yet to schedule this bill for consideration. LJC is following the bill’s progress closely. A related bill, SB 174, sets standards for pretrial release hearing involving certain “serious violent felony offenses”, including second degree sexual exploitation of a child. A rebuttable presumption in favor of pretrial detention is applied if the defendant is on conditions of release for any other pending matter. While LJC in no way condones the charged actions, it must be remembered that a person is presumed innocent until found otherwise by a court. As with any rebuttable presumptions, the burden of proof is shifted to the defendant. LJC believes this burden shifting runs counter to constitutional principles. Unfortunately, SB 174 was heard by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC) on 2/6/2023 where it received a “do pass” recommendation. It is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee awaiting a hearing.

HB 58 – Three Strikes

HB 58 was considered and “tabled” by the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee (HCPAC). This action does not preclude reconsideration by that committee, but makes it much less likely. LJC considers this to be a very positive outcome.

SB 215 – Establish Crime of Bestiality

SB 215 is currently before the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee, but has not scheduled for consideration. As stated in Legislative Update #2, LJC does not object strongly to creating the crime of bestiality, but it sees no public safety benefit of requiring listing on the sex offense registry.

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