According to the latest information, most New Mexicans who have been ordered to wear ankle monitors while awaiting trial on criminal charges are not committing any other offense.
In fact, the new statewide pre-trial GPS tracking system so far shows that nearly all alerts generated by ankle monitors don’t result in anything serious enough to warrant a warrant. stop which, once issued by a judge, the police can treat as an arrest warrant.
The Courts Administration Office formed a 15-person team to keep tabs on ankle monitors and improve monitoring on behalf of state courts, said Celia Perry, statewide pretrial program manager. .
The Electronic Monitoring and Supervision Unit, launched in October, is so far monitoring people awaiting their day in court in four jurisdictions:
- The Third Judicial District, including Las Cruces
- The sixth judicial district, in the far southwest of the state, encompassing Grant, Luna, and Hidalgo counties
- Part of 11th – San Juan County to the northwest
- Part of 13th – Sandoval County, which includes Rio Rancho
The office supports pre-trial monitoring of these courts when they close at night, on weekends and holidays, or in bad weather.
Poor supervision on weekends and holidays was an issue Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez raised last year when he built his case to reverse criminal legal reforms in New York. Mexico that abolished the cash bond system and reduced prison overcrowding, leaving the choice of whether to incarcerate someone before trial entirely in the hands of judges.
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Between October and June 30, there were about 3,595 cases closed for people who were being tracked, said Courts Analyst Gilbert Jaramillo.
According to Jaramillo:
- In 77% of these cases, people showed up for all of their hearings.
- In 86% of these cases, they received no new charges.
- In 95% of these cases, they found no new charges of violence
This early information matches previous research on the number of crimes and arrests between 2019 and 2021 from the Legislative Finance Committee.
analysts there found that violent crime arrests among remand defendants accounted for only 5% of total violent crime arrests by the Albuquerque Police Department.
This means that 95% of these defendants in pre-trial detention – who have not yet been found guilty of anything by the court – have not been charged with further violence.
In support of this finding, a University of New Mexico study showed the same percentages for a different time period for all of New Mexico: Between 2017 and 2020, 95% of people charged with a crime who were released before trial were not arrested for a violent crime.
Lawmakers considered the new preliminary data on Monday during a hearing of the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee.
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed legislation establishing a framework for statewide GPS tracking, and committee co-chairs Sen. Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) and Rep. Gail Chasey (D -Albuquerque), held Monday’s hearing in part to assess how things are playing out so far.
Rep. Christine Trujillo (D-Albuquerque) asked about defendants taking off their ankle monitors.
Public defender Kim Chavez Cook says there is no technological way to design a 100% tamper-proof ankle monitor.
“But certainly, I think it’s hard enough right now that only an extremely motivated person can do it,” she said, “and that’s why that number is so low.”
Whenever a defendant removes the ankle monitor or allows it to run out of battery, the new monitoring unit notifies the judge handling the case, who can issue a warrant for that person’s arrest, Jaramillo said. To protect victims in these cases, the Courts Administration Office unit also contacts them or contacts local police, he said, until an arrest warrant is issued.
Between October and June, at the state’s busiest courts in the Albuquerque and Las Cruces area, the Electronic Monitoring and Supervision Unit investigated 22,335 ankle monitor alerts and asked judges arrest warrants for 69 of those defendants, Perry said.
Of those alerts, 44 were for ankle monitor battery death, 14 for defendants removing the devices, and five were for curfew violations, one for a violation of a restraining order. not travel outside of a city or state, and five were due to exclusion zone violations. An exclusion zone is a geographic area where a defendant is not allowed to be under pretrial surveillance, such as schools, parks, or someone’s home.
“As you can see, a number of alerts that are investigated do not result in any type of willful violation by the accused,” Jaramillo said. “Perhaps there was a problem with the equipment. Or often, for example, a defendant may not be aware of an area in which he is not authorized to be.
When a defendant passes through an area like this, the monitoring unit is trained to notify him immediately and tell him to leave, Jaramillo said.
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By October, the bureau plans to expand the pretrial monitoring system to San Juan, McKinley, Santa Fe, Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.
Easy for police and prosecutors to get GPS data
Marcus Montoya, president of the New Mexico District Attorneys Association, hinted at the meeting that the new law makes it difficult for prosecutors and police to see GPS data.
“I don’t know how it affects our ability to get the data, if we’re going to try to revoke a defendant’s release for violating an exclusion zone,” Montoya said.
The new law actually makes it easy for prosecutors to get that information, Cervantes said.
When lawmakers were still reviewing the law, the association opposed part of the legislation that deals with electronic surveillance on the grounds that prosecutors and police do not have “clear guidance” on the possibility of get GPS data from an ankle monitor.
The law says prosecutors and police must have access to GPS data, and all they have to do to get it is say they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ – the lowest standard of proof in criminal law. – that the information may be useful in an ongoing criminal investigation. They don’t even need a warrant.
“Boy, that’s about the lowest possible bar,” Cervantes said. “We couldn’t have made this any easier for law enforcement and prosecutors.”