By Amber Widgery
New Mexico voters will decide on Election Day whether courts should be allowed to deny pretrial release to the state's most dangerous offenders.
The measure also would ensure that low-risk defendants are not detained solely because of inability to post financial or property bond.
Amendment 1 was referred to voters by the Legislature, and would modify Article 2, Section 13 of the state’s constitution.
Currently in New Mexico, almost all defendants are eligible for release under the least restrictive conditions necessary to reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance for court, and the safety of the community. Even high-risk defendants must be released if they have the funds to post bond and can meet other release conditions ordered by the court.
If approved by voters, the new law would provide judges with more discretion to deny release of felony defendants when a prosecutor requests a hearing and demonstrates that a defendant poses high risk of danger to the community or failure to appear.
Additionally, the amendment provides that a defendant who is determined to be neither dangerous nor a flight risk may not be detained solely because of financial inability to post money or property bond. The Legislative Finance Committee has estimated the state would save more than $17 million starting in fiscal year 2017 as a result of ensuring that low-risk defendants are not unnecessarily detained in jail because of their inability to post financial bond.
Learn more about other areas of pretrial policy in New Mexico and other states by visiting NCSL’s Pretrial Policy Database. For more information on 2016 ballot measures visit NCSL’s Ballot Measures Database.
Amber Widgery specializes in pretrial, sentencing and corrections policies for NCSL.