Felons who would be ineligible for bail are those considered extremely dangerous and often commit murder while out. Is this a widespread issue? No, some testimony during consideration of the legislation, said that it would have affected less than 10 felons over the past 20+ years.
Is it important? It’s absolutely critical.
Part two of the bill affects those who are in jail, supposedly for minor offenses, who cannot post bail while awaiting trial. Originally this bill allowed for anyone to claim they were indigent and be released without bail – no questions asked, no case review.
How many incarcerated would be affected? At least one county manager, testifying in support of the bill, said they would be releasing about one third of their jail population, if the CA went into effect.
Why would county managers support the legislation? Because it could save the county a lot of money at $130+/day for housing a single criminal.
The New Mexico Business Coalition(NMBC) strongly opposed this part of the bill. NMBC felt the crime rate is skyrocketing around the state and, quite frankly, we didn’t believe many of these criminals were okay to release onto the streets without at least the supervision of a bail bond agent. Thanks to NMBC followers and supporters, legislators were inundated with over 500 emails requesting the bill be stopped.
Because of this overwhelming response, the bill was amended and now requires: 1) the defendant prove they cannot post bail (versus just making the claim); 2)the defendant’s file is reviewed for past criminal activity to provide a determination that the defendant is not dangerous to society; and 3) the defendants’ files are reviewed to assure they are not considered a flight risk.
It is prudent to carefully consider this type of legislation.
The legislation requires judges – or someone – to become financial analysts to determine if the person can afford bail or not. It also requires judges to determine the defendant won’t be a flight risk or danger to society. We’re not sure how someone is supposed to do that when you consider the criminal activity we’re seeing increase across the state. If a person has never harmed anyone and has “only” been involved in theft, for example, should they be released without bail (all other things considered?)
If you consider someone who has previously been involved in burglary, home invasions or auto thefts, but who has never harmed anyone else when committing these crimes, they might qualify to be released without bail. Then think about what we’ve seen recently . . . home invasions and auto thefts that have left someone dead – be it the perpetrator or the property owner. Not real comforting.
Who supported the original bill with no requirements for review and/or consideration of past issues? It was primarily championed by Supreme Court Justice Daniels with bipartisan support in both the House, led by Rep Nate Gentry, and the Senate, led by Senator Peter Wirth. It was also supported by a couple of county managers and the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.
Who opposed it? Until it was amended, New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC) and its awesome followers as well as representatives of the bail bond industry. After it was amended, the NMBC no longer took a position on the legislation and decided to leave it to voters to decide.
And that, folks, is the decision before you with this CA on the ballot.