ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — The New Mexico Supreme Court handed down an opinion that gives judges guidance on how to decide whether defendants facing felonies should stay behind bars until trial. Pre-trial detention rulings have been controversial; many hope Monday’s guidance will bring clarity.

The guidance tells judges to consider the defendant and the case as a whole before deciding whether or not to release them before trial. Officials are hopeful this will mean less dangerous individuals will be let back onto the streets.

“For example, look at their history. Determine whether or not there’s been violence in it, determine whether or not they follow court orders, and then you implement a decision based on that holistic common sense approach rather than on what some computer model is telling you may or may not happen,” said Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman. “It’s using common sense. It’s going to make a big difference. We’re thrilled with the Supreme Court’s decision.”

This opinion was handed down in relation to the case of Joe Anderson, an Albuquerque man who is facing a murder charge for an August 2022 killing. Anderson has a history of being in and out of the justice system for other prior violent offenses. However, despite his history, a District Court judge allowed Anderson to be released on an ankle monitor while awaiting trial.

The district court’s decision was appealed by the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office, then overturned by the New Mexico Supreme Court in February. When authorities went to take Anderson back into custody, they learned the murder suspect had cut off his ankle monitor and fled. It was another week before officers found and arrested Anderson, who remains in custody at MDC.

The opinion, which can be viewed in its entirety online, further clarifies the Supreme Court’s initial February decision. The Justices wrote, in part, “The District Court abused its discretion when it denied the State’s motion for pretrial detention.”

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez hopes this clarification will mean more people like Anderson will be held. “My hope, over the long run with each new victory, [is] that we have that we improve the chances that defendants like this will remain behind bars,” Torrez said.

With the decision and opinion, the Supreme Court is saying judges should look not only at the dangerousness of the defendant but also at whether the public can be reasonably protected if they are let out. Officials said they think this guidance will help not only the courts make these decisions, but will make communities safer.

The decision marks the second time the Supreme Court has overturned a Second Judicial District Court decision to release a murder suspect from custody while the suspect is awaiting trial. The first suspect, Adrian Avila, is awaiting trial in two different murder cases.