January 27, 2016

High court approves changes to BernCo criminal trial deadlines

The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved changes to a court order relating to time limits for criminal trials in Bernalillo County.

The order, known as the case management order or CMO, was made to speed up trials in the Second Judicial District amid arguments that felony cases weren’t being tried on time. Among rules the CMO imposes are that criminal investigations must go to trial or be finished within six months, or, if a case is sufficiently complex, up to a year.

Both the Albuquerque Police Department and Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg have criticized time limits from the CMO, arguing that they don’t provide enough time to try cases. They have blamed the CMO for releasing offenders who are quickly again arrested.

Cases dismissed because they didn’t meet the CMO time limits can be refiled.

Now, new rules approved by the Supreme Court give prosecutors an extra 30 to 90 days to cases. Cases deemed the least complex must now be tried within seven months, while cases deemed the most complex must be tried within 15 months.

Cases also now can’t be dismissed if prosecutors can show that the defendant is a “danger to the community,” according to a press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Prosecutors also now have more time to share evidence with the defense before a defendant’s arraignment.

The new changes go into effect Feb. 2.