No-bond amendment gives judges power to hold suspects behind bars

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s no secret, Albuquerque has one of the worst crime problems in the country. All too often, criminals are getting out of jail right after their arrests, only to strike again. But now, judges are starting to use a new amendment to keep suspects behind bars, with what is called a “no-bond hold.”

Albuquerque often sees suspects awaiting trial being let out on a low bond. Now, the courts can deny release for those they deem “dangerous.”

“You have criminal history in two states. You have a prior failure to comply with conditions of probation,” said Judge Chris Schultz.

These are words judges say all too often here in Albuquerque, speaking about the criminal history of repeat offenders like Christopher Heh. He was arrested in January, February and March for stealing cars and breaking into homes. In one case, a family found him asleep in their daughter’s empty bed.

“All that tells me Mr. Heh is that some bond is appropriate to assure you appear in court,” said Judge Chris Schultz, during Heh’s court appearance in March.

That was the typical response from the courts, until he was arrested again this week for breaking into a truck and then pulling a knife on the owner. This time, a district court judge stepped in and said enough is enough — no bond.

This pattern of letting suspects out on low bonds has long been a point of frustration for law enforcement.

“For some reason, people don’t think that these property offenders are dangerous. They are being released right and left,” said Chief Gorden Eden.

The Albuquerque Police Department said criminals know this too, referencing the teen gang accused of multiple burglaries and car thefts, and a crime spree that eventually turned deadly.

“They brag about it. They know they are going to be released, they are going to be out in the streets doing the same thing,” said Ofc. Fred Duran.

Now, a new state constitutional amendment is giving judges the power to hold these defendants without bond until they can be tried to “protect the safety of others or the community itself.” Under this new amendment, Heh and the teens won’t be allowed to strike again.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office said it has already filed several motions for pre-trial detention, but would not discuss those cases.

State lawmakers signed off on the no-bond idea last year after an outcry over the revolving door justice system. New Mexico voters then overwhelmingly passed the constitutional amendment in November.

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