ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Ahead of lawmakers reconvening for a 60-day legislative session in January, criminal justice professionals are already ramping up the narrative surrounding potential new laws in New Mexico. The state’s Administrative Office of the Courts is now calling attention to a new study from a New Mexico non-profit looking into a high-profile proposed law that could change the rules around if a criminal suspect will be held in trial.

Compiled by the University of New Mexico and Santa Fe Institute, the study is surrounding what’s known as “rebuttable presumption.” According to an abstract of the study, researchers concluded that rebuttable presumption laws “do not accurately target dangerous defendants,” arguing that the policy casts too wide of a net. The study also suggests that rebuttable presumption recommends detention “for many pretrial defendants who do not pose a danger to the public.”

Generally, rebuttable presumption laws aim to shift the burden of proof from prosecutors to defense attorneys to convince a judge why a criminal should be let out of jail while awaiting trial. Usually, those laws only apply to a specific series of serious or violent crimes, including murder, rape, sexual abuse, gun crimes and more.

The study was highlighted by the Administrative Office of the Courts in a news release Tuesday. Director of the office, Artie Pepin said in part that the study “shows that the use of rebuttable presumptions would not substantially reduce crime.”

Meanwhile, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez’s office says it disagrees with the conclusions of the study. Torrez was among the vocal supports of a rebuttable presumption statute during the legislative session earlier this year.

Chief of Planning and Policy for the DA’s Office, Adolfo Mendez told KRQE News 13 Tuesday that the study “mischaracterizes what the proposals for rebuttable presumption have been. “This is a foray by the court into the policy making arena to try to justify a system that we all can see is not working, that is broken,” Mendez said.

The comments mark what could be considered the first “battle lines” to be drawn in the greater discussion of crime and criminal law in New Mexico, after a heated debate earlier this year. New Mexico lawmakers failed to pass House Bill 5 in the 2022 Regular session, which would be created a rebuttable presumption statute for the state.

Under current state law, it is incumbent on prosecutors to prove through clear and convincing evidence why a criminal suspect should be held in jail through trial. Amid recent outcries over crime, several state lawmakers and local criminal justice officials supported rebuttable presumption ideas that were later incorporated into 2022’s House Bill 5.

In a January 2022 news conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham appeared alongside several other lawmakers, prosecutors and police officials, pushing for the passage of proposed rebuttable presumption legislation. Days after that news conference, the Legislative Finance Committee published a memo criticizing police and prosecutors, claiming a lack of arrests, criminal deterrence and prosecution in Albuquerque has lead to an “accountability gap.”

In the recent Santa Fe Institute study, researchers came to their conclusion after looking at data from more than 15,000 felony defendants who were let out of jail on pretrial conditions of release over a four year period in New Mexico, between 2017 and 2021. From there, researchers crunched the numbers to determine how many people committed a new violent crime, or a new violent felony.

The study states, “We find that for all these criteria, at most 8% of the defendants they identify are charged pretrial with a new violent crime (felony or misdemeanor) and at most 5% are charged with a new violent felony,” the study found. “The false positive rate, i.e., the fraction of defendants these policies would detain who are not charged with any new crime pretrial, ranges from 71% to 90%.”

It’s unclear if a rebuttable presumption bill similar to the 2022 bill will be brought forth in the 2023 regular session. That session is slated to begin on January 17, lasting for 60 days. That’s double the length of 2021’s session.