DA Torrez proposes major changes to pretrial detention system

Original Article: https://www.kob.com/albuquerque-news/da-torrez-proposes-major-changes-to-pretrial-detention-system/5361948/?cat=504

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez wants to send bail reform back to voters.

“We didn’t get it right the first time,” Torrez told KOB 4 on Tuesday. “I think there was an expectation that we would consistently detain the most violent offenders, the most dangerous offenders, but it simply isn’t the case.”

In 2016, New Mexico voters agreed to eliminate the cash bail system in the state through a constitutional amendment.

Bail reform was sold on two ideas:

  1. Ensure poor, non-violent suspects wouldn’t get stuck in jail just because they couldn’t afford bail.
  2. Ensure that the most dangerous suspects wouldn’t be released just because they had money to bond out.

However, Torrez believes the constitutional amendment has not been effective in keeping the most dangerous people off the streets.

“It has not delivered or secured the public safety needs or interest of the citizens of Bernalillo County or the state,” he said.

Torrez wants state lawmakers to send the constitutional amendment back to voters with a big change. He wants murder, rape and other violent suspects to be kept in jail pending a trial, unless defendants make a successful case for their release.

Under current law, prosecutors have to convince a judge that someone is too dangerous to be on the streets.

In Bernalillo County, judges side with prosecutors less than half of the time.

Torrez is modeling his proposal after Washington, D.C. and California, which adopted similar measures.

Defense attorneys and public defenders plan on fighting the district attorney’s idea.

“Albuquerque Police Department said last week that every major crime indicator has been falling in the last year and that is under the current system,” said defense attorney Ben Bauer. “The system as it is is working. It’s difficult to get evidence together and present it to a judge, but that is their job and it’s not the job of a person accused of a crime and not convicted to somehow show that they shouldn’t be held and that’s what they are asking for.”