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AG Barr Gives Low Grade to NM on Criminal Justice

Michael J. Whitlock

Justifying his efforts to eliminate bail requirements for criminal offenders, the late New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, stated during an interview by KOB4 posted August 4, 2017, “There are very few that actually go on the run. Most of the people in New Mexico and nationally do it for the same reason they don’t make their doctor’s and their dentist’s appointments.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr was in Albuquerque last week to announce the capture of 325 fugitives by a federal and state joint task force in the Albuquerque area. During his press conference AG Barr lamented New Mexico’s criminal laws were subpar. That the judiciary was not detaining violent offenders pending trial which is allowable now that New Mexico amended its state constitution.
AG Barr went on to say, releasing violent offenders makes it possible for them to “intimidate the neighborhood” and that “hopefully, New Mexico’s system will come up to snuff.”
Like New Jersey, New Mexico moved away from a bail system that guaranteed defendants appeared for trial and began releasing offenders on an unsecured promise to appear, welcome news to repeat offenders in these two states. Additionally, both states were successful in convincing the voters to amend their respective state constitutions to expand preventative detention. The overall objective being, if you are deemed to be a threat to public safety you will be detained pending trial; otherwise, you will be released on your own recognizance.
While the announcement of the capture of 325 violent offender fugitives in New Mexico is notable, what is not mentioned are the tens of thousands of offenders who failed to appear for court on charges ranging from DUI to drug distribution to domestic violence. Who is looking for these folks? If New Mexico’s bail system was ever broken, it’s now almost beyond repair after bail reforms have been implemented. Thinking back to the late Justice Daniels simplistic reasoning for most failures to appear, it’s hard to believe so many criminal offenders are afraid to go to the dentist.

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