District Attorney Torrez introduces pretrial detention proposal

New Mexico
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The Bernalillo County District Attorney plans to push big changes to the rule that allows judges to keep suspected criminals behind bars until trial. He says the way the law is now, too many dangerous people are being let out on the streets.  

More than two years ago, voters passed a constitutional amendment that re-worked the way pretrial detention was handled in the court’s system. Now the DA says they know why it’s not working and plan to fix it. 

District Attorney Raul Torrez says since pretrial detention took effect in January 2017, his office has taken more than 22,000 felony cases. Out of those cases, he says they have only moved preventive detention on 11% of them. 

He is now proposing a new constitutional amendment that would keep people charged with murder and other crimes that carry life sentences kept in jail until trial. 

Not everyone is on board with the changes.

“It will clarify both when district courts are expected to rule on the merits of a motion, what the form of the motion should be and above all mandate that the courts rule on the merits set forth to justify pretrial detention,” said Torrez.

However, defense attorney’s don’t think this is a good idea. The Cheif Public Defender says the way the amendment is written, a lot of non-dangerous people will be held in jail. 

Torrez says judges need more clarity on the rules because different judges interpret the rules differently. A state lawmaker would have to sponsor the constitutional amendment in the Roundhouse. If approved, it would then go to the voters. 

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