The New Mexico Supreme Court has rendered a decision directing district courts on how to handle pretrial detention requests from prosecutors and clarified the circumstances under which judges can deny bail under the state’s no-money bail system. The ruling provides guidance for courts in determining whether someone charged with a felony should be kept behind bars while waiting for their trial.
New Mexico state law permits the detention of a person charged with a felony if prosecutors file a written motion and prove to the district court that the accused poses a threat to the public safety or that the release conditions will not adequately protect anyone else from harm. The recent decision of the state Supreme Court explains the factors that judges should consider when evaluating whether the legal requirements have been met.
The ruling follows a February case in which a Bernalillo County man accused of first-degree murder was denied a motion for pretrial detention, only to allegedly cut off his ankle monitor while waiting for the trial. He was arrested again after several weeks.
The decision by the highest court of New Mexico is expected to help district courts more accurately determine when to keep a defendant jailed pretrial. The ruling also strengthens the validity of the state’s bail system, which has been challenged by reform advocates who claim it unfairly punishes poor individuals who can’t afford the bail amount. Nonetheless, the ruling could lead to the detention of more suspects charged with violent offenses.