February 12, 2016

Lawmakers announce bail reform compromise

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Peter Wirth

Sen. Peter Wirth

Democratic and Republican members from both the Senate and House gathered to announce a compromise to bail reform legislation.

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Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque, announced, Friday in a press conference, that they had reached a compromise on Wirth’s proposed constitutional amendment. Wirth’s proposal would allow denial of bail for dangerous defendants and also allow bail to be waived for those with an inability to pay.

Wirth said the resolution still allows for a judge to waive bail for those who are incarcerated solely because they cannot pay, but now the legislation requires the defendant to file a motion asking for bail to be waived. Another change specifies bail can only be denied for dangerous defendants and not for those who pose a flight risk.

Wirth acknowledged that not everyone will be happy with the changes, but said it is part of the process.

“When you have a true compromise, you’ve got unhappy people on both sides,” Wirth said.

Adkins, who sponsored a House version that would allow judges to deny bail but not waive it, said the new language eases his concerns about defendants who feign that they are indigent.

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Rep. David Adkins, R-Albuquerque

“My fear was that anybody could say that they couldn’t afford bail,” Adkins said.

Wirth along with a Supreme Court ad-hoc committee started crafting the Senate resolution last year and eventually received an endorsement by the high court.

Many from the bail bonds industry had opposed Wirth’s version and favored Adkins’ House joint resolution, saying it would both hurt their business and put the public at risk.

Wirth’s joint resolution still needs to move through two more House committees, the House floor and the Senate floor for a concurrence vote within six days. If passed by both bodies, the legislation would go to voters in November.

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