This story contains a correction.

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Metro Court judges want to take some of the burdens off of District Court judges by helping them with felony cases.

Metro judges started holding preliminary hearings Monday to provide another avenue for advancing felony cases.

Right now, prosecutors can hold a preliminary hearing in District Court or present the case to a grand jury, both of which are very time-consuming.

With the new process, if a Metro Court judge decides a felony case has probable cause, it will be sent over to District Court. If the case is pled down to a misdemeanor, the defendant has the option to enter a Specialty Court program.

It is meant to lighten the workload of District Court.

“These cases will now be set for a probable cause hearing right away, within 10 days for the folks that are actually in custody so that’s going to make the process quicker,” said Judge Edward Benavidez.

Judge Benavidez says the new process will help some suspects enter drug and DWI programs.

Correction: If a case is pled down to a misdemeanor, the defendant will not automatically be in one of the Specialty Courts. It is, however, an option. 

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