Three crime-related bills make it through committee | local news

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The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee passed three crime reduction bills on Saturday, aimed in part at strengthening penalties, protecting judges and expanding access to grants.

Crime was a focus of this session; Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has previously unveiled a series of proposals aimed at tackling them. Lawmakers from both parties have touted “tough anti-crime measures” in the face of mounting pressure.

House Bill 68, introduced by Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Albuquerque, would make it a fourth-degree felony to threaten injury, property damage, or violence against another person or a school, home, business, vehicle, or place of assembly .

“This law attempts to fill loopholes in New Mexico law and allow for penalties that reflect the level of danger they pose to the community or the level of harm victims have suffered,” she said.

The bill would make unlawful possession of a handgun a fourth-degree felony. Exceptions would be legal hunting; adult-supervised home use; traveling with an unloaded pistol; safety courses for hunters; target shooting; and appearances at athletic competitions.

It would result in second-degree felony charges for possession or transportation of a firearm or destructive device by a criminal or person convicted of battery or stalking, and second-degree felony charges for aggravated escape from law enforcement .

Finally, the bill proposes additional jail terms for possessing, brandishing and firing a firearm during a drug dealing, burglary or violent act.

An amendment removed a section of the bill related to possession of a firearm near a school zone.

Committee Chair Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, and Reps. Randall Pettigrew, R-Lovington, and Elizabeth Thomson, D-Albuquerque voted in favour. Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, opposed.

House Bill 99, introduced by Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, would make threatening a judge or a judge’s family member a fourth-degree felony and would include acts that create fear of grievous bodily harm in a judge or a judge’s family member . disrupt a judge’s professional duties or retaliate against a judge’s rulings.

The legislation would also designate the malicious disclosure of personal information about a judge or a judge’s family member as a misdemeanor.

New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil testified about recent incidents of threats against judges, including the pursuit of a judge’s wife and daughter, the shooting of a judge’s car and the closure of the Taos courthouse County in 2018, triggered by post-judgment threats.

Vigil said there were no statistics from the National Center for State Courts on the number of threats against state judges, but data from the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts showed it received reports of five threats against courthouses and 10 threats against judges in 2021 have.

Cindy Leos, Justice of the Second Judicial District Court, said: “When judges make decisions out of fear of the consequences of their decisions, we undermine the very fabric of our democracy.”

The bill was unanimously rejected in committee.

House Bill 84, introduced by Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, aims to expand access to grants for members of a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

The bill would channel state funding to communities through 13 criminal justice coordinating councils.

Grants could be used to expand alternatives to incarceration and opportunities for distraction from prosecution, improve pre-trial utilities, and improve a law enforcement agency’s data sharing, among other things.

The crime reduction grant program would be overseen by a bipartisan commission.

The bill was unanimously rejected in committee.

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