Courts, Corrections and Justice committee review sentencing draft bill
The New Mexico Legislature’s Courts, Corrections & Justice committee met this past week in Albuquerque to discuss a wide array of issues pertaining to corrections oversight to solitary confinement.
One of the topics discussed was proposed changes to the felony sentencing structure in New Mexico.
Kim Chavez Cook, who is an appellate defender from the public defenders department said the current structure of New Mexico’s felony and subsequent sentencing lengths have created a lot of gray area when it comes to the amount of prison exposure an individual gets depending on the degree of the felony.
“If you look at just first degree, second degree, third degree without all the special felonies. We go starting from the bottom, fourth degree is eighteen months, third degree is three years, then you have this big jump to nine years for second degree, then you double it to 18 for a first degree felony. So it’s no wonder that we’ve ended up over the years with these sorts of micro jumps in-between those tiers to say, ‘well it’s not nine years, it’s not eighteen, maybe it’s twelve or fifth-teen, so we’ve created these special penalties over the years.”
In order to help address the leaps in sentencing, Chavez Cook recommended overhauling the classification system to make each period of sentencing usable for all levels of felonies and not tie them to specific crime.
This will allow these laws to be implemented in the case of any felony, while still allowing the legislature the flexibility to add or subtract the amount of time spent in prison.
Chavez Cook did caution the committee by saying the drafted bill before them was still in the early stages of being developed, with the felony structure only thing being clearly identified.
Conversations on enhancements and eligibility for good time in prison are still being hashed out.
If the legislature were to consider a change to the felony structure, it would involve looking and reclassifying 946 felony statues, making it one of the biggest bills the legislature would ever consider.