NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s been the subject of fierce debate for years: how to decide when a defendant is too dangerous to let out on the streets while awaiting trial.

“I start with the very basic premise of this. With a history of violent offenses where there has been the convictions of violent offenses, for example, and they are, again, accused of violent offenses. How can we let that person out in the community and ensure the safety of the community?” said Bernalillo County District Attorney Sam Bregman.

Right now, the burden is on prosecutors to prove someone accused of a crime poses a danger to the community and should stay in jail.

Senate Bill 123 would flip that burden to the defense to prove the defendant should not be held until trial.

This bill makes it clear that the suspect must pose a serious threat to the public, and the crime they’re accused of has to be a serious offense. On Wednesday, lawmakers heard from those in favor of the bill, arguing it would make cities, like Albuquerque, safer.

“I think that this bill would help us truly focus on the most violent offenders. We’re not talking about the nonviolent drug charges. We’re not talking about any of those offenses, but the most violent offenses where people are continuing to re-offend because they are not held behind bars,” said Nicole Chavez.

Those against the idea said it raises constitutional concerns. They also questioned whether the shift would do anything to improve public safety. Some argued it could impact already struggling jails.

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“We also believe that SB 123 will increase jail populations at a time when staffing shortages make correctional facilities increasingly dangerous, especially in the Bernalillo County area,” said Rikki-Lee Chavez with the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

In a split vote, the Senate Health Committee tabled the bill, so it is stalled for now. A similar proposal failed during last year’s legislative session.