SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved changes to a rule designed to diminish the backlog of criminal cases awaiting trial in Bernalillo County.

The court made the announcement Wednesday, saying prosecutors in the state’s busiest judicial district will have more time for handling cases.

The changes also include safeguards for limiting when cases may be dismissed for failure to comply with the so-called “speedy trial rule.”

The changes will take effect Feb. 2 for new cases and for those pending cases that are assigned on or after next Tuesday.

The justices heard from prosecutors, public defenders and law enforcement officials last year about changing the rule, which was implemented in February 2015. Critics argued it was overtaxing the local district attorney’s office and allowing more criminals to evade prosecution.

The Albuquerque Police Department released this statement on Wednesday:

“The new changes to the CMO are a step in the right direction, such as encouraging a more balanced approach to case dismissals.  The rule is more clear that judges should consider a variety of factors before dismissing a case based on technical violations.

But there are other important issues that still need to be addressed to help keep our community safe.  For example, the early, rigid deadlines still exist for producing massive amounts of information in order to avoid violent felony cases being dismissed.

The Albuquerque Police Department appreciates the Court’s willingness to address these public safety issues and looks forward to continuing to work with the Court and other stakeholders to take the additional steps needed to make our community safer.”

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