February 17, 2016

Voters to decide on bail reform

Peter Wirth

Sen. Peter Wirth

Voters will get to decide on a bail reform this November after the proposal passed the Senate Wednesday morning.

Peter Wirth

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, announcing a compromise on bail bond reform.

The Senate quickly voted 36-0 to concur with House changes to send the proposed constitutional amendment to the voters, likely on the ballot this November.

The proposal would allow judges to hold those they deem a danger to others in jail without bond until trial. This is the part that just about every legislator agreed with.

The more controversial proposal, and one that took a deal between sponsors and the bail bond industry, was to allow judges to release those who are in jail before trial solely because they could not afford bail. The initial Senate proposal allowed judges to release them; the deal with the bail bond industry said those who could not afford bond “may file a motion with the court requesting relief from the requirement to post bond.”

Sponsors of the bill announced the deal late last week and it quickly moved through the House.

“With this amendment, the bill passed the House unanimously,” Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, told the body before calling for concurrence.

Despite the widespread support among legislators, groups that initially pushed for the proposal like the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico pulled their support because of the change.

There was no debate among the Senate on the new proposal and the chamber voted 36-0 to concur with the House changes.

Because it is a proposed constitutional amendment, it does not need to go to the governor; instead it goes directly to voters.