On behalf of the Chamber’s Board, President and CEO Terri Cole yesterday joined Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez to call for new constitutional language to strengthen the pre-trial detention guidelines allowing judges to hold potentially dangerous defendants ahead of their trials.
“Like most residents of Bernalillo County, we believe these dangerous offenders should be held in jail prior to their trial when they are arrested, and we’re frustrated that this is not happening right now in Albuquerque,” Ms. Cole said Tuesday morning. “The passage of the constitutional amendment allowing pre-trial detention came with a certain set of expectations from the public, from the business community, and from victims that have simply not been met.”
While noting that this proposal would only apply to a small minority of defendants, Torrez called for enabling legislation that would create a presumption of detention for defendants who are arrested for particularly serious violent crimes. The proposal would also make it clear that a defendant can be detained on grounds of dangerousness, flight risk, or obstruction of the criminal process. Defendants accused of serious or violent crimes would be required to demonstrate to the court that they should be granted release, rather than the District Attorney being required to demonstrate that they should not be put back on the streets.
Though only 11% of defendants are recommended by the District Attorney’s office for pre-trial detention on the basis of their dangerousness to the community, more than half of the motions to keep those defendants off the streets were denied by local judges.
Alongside Torrez, District Attorney Dianna Luce, Geltmore LLC CEO and Chamber Board member Paul Silverman, and advocates and victims of violent crime, Ms. Cole supported the D.A.’s proposal, noting that 37% of the denied pre-trial detention motions involved gun crimes or deadly weapons charges, despite an overwhelming majority of voters and the Chamber supporting a constitutional amendment giving judges discretion to hold exactly those types of defendants ahead of their trials.
“Businesses across our community stand in strong support of the D.A.’s recommendations to clarify and strengthen our constitutional language around the detention of dangerous defendants in New Mexico,” Ms. Cole said. “The concept of creating a presumption of detention for defendants who have been arrested for certain types of violent crimes simply makes good sense.”