New Mexico bill could give judges more discretion in sentencing

| Feb 10, 2021 | Fish and Game Violations |

Mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes are largely a product of the no-holds-barred approach to law enforcement of the past. The idea was to make the prospect of a severe sentence so unappealing that people would think twice before they crossed any legal lines.

The only problem is that mandatory minimums have done nothing to reduce crime. Worse, they’ve created a one-way tide of prisoners that has filled American jail cells to the brim and beyond.

H.B. 140 could return power to the judiciary

Mandatory minimums erase a critical part of the criminal judicial process: The ability of a judge to pass a sentence they believe is fair and appropriate for the situation.

H.B. 140, sponsored by Democratic representatives Karen Bash and Andrea Romero could restore that privilege to the court once more by allowing judges discretion when they apply sentences for a variety of crimes, including:

  • Game and fish violations
  • Criminal sexual penetration (when the victim is between 13 and 18 years of age)
  • Criminal sexual contact of a minor
  • Violation of orders of protection

It would also allow judges to suspend or defer sentence enhancements for habitual offenders, eliminate mandatory life sentences for third-strike convictions for violent crimes and second-strike convictions for sexual offenses. Plus, a judge would have the ability to defer or suspend any sentence for any crime short of capital felonies.

Prosecutors oppose the idea

Naturally, those opposed to the bill have had some harsh words about the possible changes. Their hyperbolic responses, however, obscure the real reason that prosecutors like mandatory minimums: They are a massive form of leverage against everyone who is accused of a crime.

The fear of a mandatory minimum sentence upon conviction is often used to pressure a defendant to accept a plea deal to a lesser crime just to avoid that possibility.

Whatever criminal charges you face, don’t fall prey to aggressive prosecution tactics. Let a defense attorney protect your rights.