SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state lawmaker wants to fix what he calls the “catch and release” problem in New Mexico. Representative Bill Rehm (R) wants to change what New Mexico courts look at when deciding if someone should be released from jail before their trial.
In 2016, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly supported a constitutional amendment that would allow judges to deny bail to a person charged with a felony if the prosecution gave “clear and convincing” evidence that if the person is released they pose a threat to the community. The amendment also allows retaining the right to pretrial release for non-dangerous defendants who do not pose a flight risk.
Representative Bill Rehm is looking to change that constitution amendment again. “In my legislation, we’ll look at past criminal history, past history of appearance in court, the actual charge, what it is and then in totality make a decision of conditions of release,” said Representative Rehm.
Rehm wants to remove the requirement that a defendant must be charged with a felony to be subject to pretrial detention. It also adds that bail could be denied if the court finds no release conditions will ensure the defendant will appear for a court hearing.
The public defender’s office says this proposal is unnecessary because concerns about pretrial detention have already been addressed. “There was a study in the system done by UNM Center for Social Research and it showed that the system was really addressing problems that came up and people released were not creating crimes at a greater level,” said Bennett Baur, Public Defenders Office.
However, Representative Rehm says the state needs pretrial detention determinations to go beyond looking at how dangerous the person is. A House committee is scheduled to discuss the joint resolution on Wednesday, Feb. 3.