A federal judge on Thursday rejected a request from bail bondsmen and several legislators to block the state’s recent bail reforms. The order keeps the state’s bail policies in place while the lawsuit proceeds.
Proponents say the new policies are meant to ensure that nonviolent criminal suspects are not kept in jail just because they cannot afford to post bail.
But conservatives have blamed the new policies for recent crimes in Albuquerque. And bail bondsmen have argued that the policies undermine their business by encouraging judges to release suspects, particularly in relatively minor cases, without paying any money at all to ensure their appearance in court.
Bondsmen and several legislators filed suit against the state Supreme Court in July and asked a federal judge to block the new rules.
Denying that request, U.S. District Judge Robert Junell said there is no constitutional right to pay to get out of jail, but there is a constitutional guarantee that a defendant will not be charged an excessive amount of money to post bail.
He wrote that those suing did not offer any specific examples of irreparable harm. Instead, they raised hypothetical problems.
And Junell rejected as meritless the suggestion that the new policies were imposed unconstitutionally. The state Supreme Court has the right to set rules regarding bail, Junell said, and the new regulations come after voters approved an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution.
Even so, Junell, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, wrote that the group is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its case.
The state Supreme Court is asking Junell to dismiss the case altogether.
A. Blair Dunn, the lawyer for the group that filed the case, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andrewboxford.