“A WEDGE IN THE REVOLVING DOOR”: Governor Pledges Support for an Important Pre-Trial Detention Change

Last week, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham addressed the state’s persistent violent crime problem and said creating a rebuttable presumption of detention for certain crimes could “put a wedge in the revolving door.” If enacted, those arrested for serious and particularly violent crimes would be presumed to be dangerous. They would be held in jail pre-trial, unless defense counsel could convince a judge that his/her client is, in fact, not a threat to public safety.

The change would be significant and likely result in more serious offenders being detained pre-trial – and not released as many of them currently are. 

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office found that out of 4,600 pretrial detention motions filed from 2017 to 2021, half were denied. KOB-TV reported that, of the 2,300 suspects released pending trial, more than 300 of those suspects went on to be arrested for another crime (it’s anyone’s guess how many others have committed crimes and not yet been arrested).

Creating a rebuttable presumption of detention for certain crimes has long been supported by the Chamber, victim advocates, law enforcement officers, and prosecutors – including Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez. The Chamber sent a letter, shown below, to the Governor pledging to work with her to change our state’s pre-trial detention/release processes.

“… too many dangerous people are allowed to walk free for months prior to their trial. Many of them commit additional crimes while awaiting trial, fail to comply with court orders, and/or fail to show up for hearings,” Chamber leaders said, while echoing the Governor’s comments that businesses and residents are concerned by what seems to be a “revolving door” justice system in New Mexico. 

Last Tuesday, the Governor announced she would ask the Legislature for $100 million for 1000 more police officers across the state, the same day a new operation sending 35 State Police officers to Albuquerque launched. And on August 13, Lujan Grisham told KOB public safety would be the number-one priority for the next legislative session, while Republican lawmakers issued a strongly-worded call for a special legislative session to be held on crime sooner rather than later.

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