New Mexico Chief Justice urges caution over bail law reform

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — The New Mexico Attorney General on Tuesday urged state lawmakers to exercise caution and remember the principle of innocence until proven guilty as they consider using the state’s bail laws as a stepping up response to violent crime.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court C. Shannon Bacon delivered a state of justice address to a joint session of the New Mexico legislature — the first in several years. She outlined efforts to streamline court processes to keep law enforcement officers in communities and on the streets while lawmakers grapple with public frustration over violent crime, including a record-breaking killing spree in Albuquerque.

She also recalled public safety advances that came with the overhaul of New Mexico’s pre-trial detention system beginning in 2017 to eliminate cash bail and ensure dangerous individuals can be held pending trial.

“With the bail abolished, judges now have the ability to assess dangerousness, which was not possible before,” Bacon said. In Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, this has resulted in the detention of over 3,000 defendants pending trial. Something that couldn’t happen before.”