Governor voices support of bills tackling crime

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The crime problem has the governor working with lawmakers to crack down on violent criminals. She’s supporting some bills that had been introduced by Republicans before but failed to pass, and some new ones that increase sentences for certain crimes.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham says if passed by the legislature, the changes will make New Mexico streets safer. “I think it is also critical that we talk about that this isn’t an Albuquerque issue, this is a state issue,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

Gov. Lujan Grisham is backing three bills to fight crime. The first would change pretrial detention rules. Right now, it is the prosecution that has to prove why someone should stay behind bars before trial. The new bill would put pressure on the defense as to why someone should be out before trial.

“If you’ve committed a violent crime, the burden is on you to demonstrate why it would be safe to have you go back into the community. That creates an opportunity for us to be clear for the judicial branch to have a statutory requirement,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

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Democratic State Representative, Marian Matthews, is sponsoring the proposal. “This bill that we will be introducing asks our courts to look very, very carefully at individuals who are charged with very violent felonies and deciding whether they should be released pending trial and under what conditions,” said Rep. Matthews.

A second bill would increase a prison sentence for second-degree murder by three years and would take away the statute of limitations.

“One for second-degree murder increases in jail time. The issue is we want to make sure that folks who are thinking about, who did, who are engaged who are recruited in any activity puts them in a position to commit a homicide or a violent crime — you’re going to jail for a very, very long time,” the governor said.

The third is going after people committing crimes with guns. It would now be a felony to commit a crime with a gun. The governor also wants to create a $100-million fund to help with the hiring of officers across the state. The package would also include a substantial raise for state police officers.

“I don’t have to tell all of you or the citizens that a lot of law enforcement agencies are down officers at this time and we have to figure out ways to fill those ranks because these bills if enacted into law, are worthless if there is nobody there to enforce them,” said New Mexico State Police Chief, Tim Johnson.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the bill at the legislative session that starts next week.

The bill on pretrial detention and changing the burden of proof has been introduced by Bill Rehm in 2018 without success. Rehm is behind many of these crime bills and was at Thursday’s press conference. Meanwhile, the Office of the Public Defenders sent the following statement:

We haven’t seen the actual bills, only the press releases. However, I’m concerned that the focus is all on police, prosecutors and punishment, and seems to ignore the effects that the proposals would have on the courts, public defenders, jails and prisons, and on what happens when anyone accused of a crime is eventually released.  The evidence is that people on pretrial release are not a significant cause of the increase in violent crime, and, in fact, incarcerating more people before trial, or with increased penalties, will further harm our communities.

Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur

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