ACLU Pulls Support From Bail Reform Measure

DANIEL SCHWEN / CC-BY-SA 4.0

DANIEL SCHWEN / CC-BY-SA 4.0

  •  Marisa Demarco
  •  Monday, February 15, 2016

UPDATED 2/16 7a:

Several groups that were in favor of a bail reform measure are yanking their support after a House committee amended it Monday, Feb. 15.

The first version of this proposed change to the state Constitution did two things: It allowed the court to keep dangerous felony defendants behind bars before a trial, and it let judges decide to release folks who posed no threat but couldn’t afford bail.

But Steven Robert Allen with the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the measure went from being crystal clear to murky at best. “The original language was so much better merely because it made it unmistakable what the intent was,” he said. “The ACLU doesn’t know how this is going to be interpreted in the future.”

The compromise amendment requires low-income defendants to file a motion that they can’t afford bail. Allen says it would be weird to enshrine that in the state’s Constitution, when it would usually be part of court rules and procedures.

The ACLU is joined by Young Women United and Strong Families N.M. in withdrawing support for the measure. They say it no longer offers enough protection for low-income families.

The resolution was immediately sent to the House floor where it was approved. Now it’s heading back to the Senate, which will have to re-vote on the new version. The session ends on Thursday.

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