2021 Legislative Session
Lawmakers to introduce criminal justice reform bills
Attempts at criminal justice reform are not new for the New Mexico Legislature, but success in lessening criminal penalties and revamping processes has seen mixed results. But reform advocates and some lawmakers said they are confident this is the year criminal justice reform proposals will gain more traction and possibly be signed into law.
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, who has been a long-time advocate for criminal justice reform said a politically progessive shift of the Legislature could help move those types of bills forward.
“I think a lot of champions have emerged,” Maestas said. “So I anticipate a whole slew of criminal justice type bills to increase public safety and make the system more accountable”
One issue Maestas said he plans to address is language in state law that gives law enforcement officers who are under investigation arguably more rights than other citizens under investigation have been afforded in practice.
The law Maestas plans to address details rights of officers subjected to internal investigations and includes things like limiting interrogations to two in a 24 hour period, limiting interrogation time limits and requiring no more than two interrogators at a time. Maestas said the language in the law is unusually similar to language in most police union contracts.
“It’s like an HR protection in state statute,” he said.
Maestas said the law itself is antithetical to basic freedoms afforded by the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s even referred to in popular culture as the peace officer bill of rights,” Maestas said. “Which totally contradicts the premise of the U.S. Bill of Rights, which is protections against the government not protections for government.”
Maestas said he also wants the regulation of law enforcement licensure moved from the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy to the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department and plans to sponsor a bill to do so.
Maestas said law enforcement is one of the few professions, including teachers and lawyers, in the state that is self-regulated.
“The Law Enforcement Academy has to be re-reworked,” he said.