- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico House Republicans and Senate Democrats have reached a compromise on bail reform, with party leaders saying Friday they plan to back a proposal that has received support from judges, defense attorneys, county leaders and prosecutors.

Lawmakers from both chambers and parties spoke Friday at a news conference, with Republican Rep. David Adkins saying the constitutional amendment crafted by Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, is the “right piece of legislation to support.”

Wirth’s proposal allows judges to deny bail to defendants deemed a danger to the public, while granting non-violent defendants pretrial release if the sole reason they are in jail is because they are too poor to make bail.

A Legislative Finance Committee analysis determined the amendment would save taxpayers almost $19 million per year by jailing significantly fewer non-dangerous defendants. Meanwhile, the cost of detaining detaining more dangerous defendants for longer as they await trial would cost $967,000 each year.

With support from the bail bond industry, Adkins had proposed a constitutional amendment for reform that had omitted the provision for cash-strapped defendants as a counter proposal to Wirth’s version.

“It’s critical that judges have the ability to keep the worst of the worst in jail and away from the public,” Adkins said Friday. “I’m confident that we will get this passed through the House and sent back to the Senate for concurrence.”

The compromise adds language clarifying that those eligible for release because they can’t afford bail must not pose a danger or flight risk in the absence of bail. They also must file a motion requesting relief, and the court must rule quickly on the request.

Adkins put his own proposal on hold Wednesday, the same day it had been scheduled for a House floor vote.

Wirth’s proposal won approval in the Senate, and still awaits a committee hearing and floor vote in the House with only five days left in the legislative session.

The constitutional amendment would go before voters in November if approved by the House.



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