Democrats and Republicans rallied behind a package of crime and public safety legislation on Wednesday, lending a bipartisan stamp of approval to five very different bills that may not end long-running disputes over criminal sentencing or bail reform but which backers say represent a coordinated approach to one of the most pressing issues at the Roundhouse this year. Including mostly noncontroversial pieces of legislation from both sides of the aisle, parts of the package won support from a disparate group including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Law Office of the Public Defender. The bill would toughen sentences in some respects but could also lighten sentences for minor offenses. The proposal would impose stiffer sentences for violent felons caught with a firearm while also ensuring some of the pettiest crimes — such as littering — are not punishable with jail time. The measure would also expand behavioral health services to jail inmates with mental illnesses, provide bonuses for long-serving police officers and stiffen the rules requiring DWI offenders to have ignition interlock devices removed from their vehicles.
In April, the city of Albuquerque seized Arlene Harjo’s car after police charged her son for driving under the influence of alcohol. Harjo said she lent the car to her son after he asked to use it to go to the gym. Instead, he went to visit his girlfriend in Texas and was pulled over and arrested by police on his way back. To get her car back, the city told Harjo she had to pay $4,000. Plus, city law enforcement would keep a boot on her car for a year and half before she could drive it again.
Among questions following the gruesome rape and murder last week of an Albuquerque girl that sent shockwaves across New Mexico is how one of the alleged perpetrators was present to commit the violence in the first place. Fabian Gonzales, one of three being charged in the murder of 10-year-old Victoria Martens, was supposed to be on supervised probation for a separate crime for a year-and-a-half before the night of Martens’ death. In Febraury 2015, a judge sentenced Gonzales, 31, to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty to battery and abandonment of a child. This two-year probation sentence, however, was never enforced. The sentence prohibited Gonzales from using illegal drugs and subjected him to random drug testing.
In the past few weeks, Albuquerque has seen headlines about a recent spike in the city’s crime. But as both property and violent crime in the city increases, two other key indicators dropped between 2014 and 2015: the number of police officers and arrests. Between the two years, the number of arrests recorded by the city dropped by 10 percent, or from 25,358 to 22,820. During that same period, the number of sworn Albuquerque Police Department officers shrunk by 8 percentage points, or from 903 cops to 832 cops. “There’s a direct correlation with having more patrol officers and having a drop in crime,” Shaun Willoughby, an APD detective president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said in an interview.
The House passed three bills on Thursday night that would increase penalties on crimes related to DWI. One would create a felony for those caught with a DWI while driving on a revoked license, another would add the fourth DWI penalty—which is the first DWI that qualifies as a felony—to the habitual offender statute and the third would increase penalties for the fourth through seventh DWI by a year and increases someone’s eighth DWI from a third degree felony to a second degree felony. The most-discussed bill involved creating a felony for a DWI while on a revoked license, though it was another smaller provision that was most controversial. Instead, it was the section that said anyone who knowingly permits someone on a revoked license will receive a felony that had many raising hypotheticals including those of a husband and wife who co-own a car. Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, said that the concerns were overblown.
The former Albuquerque Public Schools deputy superintendent who is facing child sexual abuse and domestic violence charges was booked into Denver jail on Wednesday. The Albuquerque Journal first reported the news on Wednesday, citing online court records. The newspaper says Jason Martinez is being held without bond. A spokeswoman with the District Attorney’s office in Denver confirmed the news to New Mexico Political Report. The spokeswoman, Lynn Kimbrough confirmed that he is being held in the Denver Detention Center.