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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, persons charged with criminal offenses face an intricate legal system instituted by the state and enforced by the courts. Accused persons may require legal counsel to navigate the system; however, accused persons may also choose to face the system as Pro Se litigants. All alleged offenders have a right to an attorney. If they cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court may appoint an attorney, especially if the offense is punishable by imprisonment.

When a person is arrested for a criminal offense, what follows is a series of hearings and pre-trial processes. A bond hearing is set immediately after arrest. If the court grants bail, the accused person must attend all the hearings required by the court. Depending on the severity of the offense, persons charged with criminal offenses may face prison terms of no less than six months if convicted. Convictions and the concurrent sentences are delivered at trials, which may be bench or jury trials.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases Go to Trial in New Mexico?

In the 2019 fiscal year, New Mexico District Courts reported 125,231 cases statewide. Of these cases, 23% were adult criminal cases, and 6% juvenile criminal cases. District Courts are New Mexico’s general jurisdiction courts tasked with hearing criminal and civil cases. The Bernalillo County Metropolitan court had 66,824 new and reopened cases, out of which 22,180 criminal cases went to trial. Magistrate courts had 145,457 new and reopened cases, of which 35% were criminal. New Mexico Magistrate courts conducted 9,067 criminal trials in 2019.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

According to the United States Constitution and New Mexico state laws, criminal defendants have a right to a public and speedy trial by the court or an impartial jury. Usually, only one judge tries criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for no more than 90 days. For crimes punishable by imprisonment of 90 days to six (6) months, defendants may demand a jury trial. Parties must make requests for jury trials after entering the plea. The request must be in writing or orally in open court. Criminal offenses punishable by imprisonment for more than six (6) months are tried by juries, except the defendant waives the right to a jury trial. The court and the state must approve the defendant’s waiver.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in New Mexico?

The following are stages of a criminal trial in New Mexico:

  • Jury selection
  • Opening statements
  • Witness examination
  • Witness cross-examination
  • Evidence presentation
  • Closing arguments
  • Verdict
  • Sentencing

How Long Does it take For a Case to Go to Trial in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, the time it takes for a case to go to trial depends on the complexity of the case, the severity of the offense, the number of witnesses in the case, and the number of charges involved. The law stipulates that all criminal cases must go to trial within 182 days. However, the court may extend this waiting period. Typically, simple court cases take six (6) to 12 months, and complex cases take 15 to 18 months. The court dismisses claims that take too long to go to trial with prejudice.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in New Mexico?

When a case goes to trial in New Mexico, the process begins with Voire Dire, also known as jury selection. For jury trials, 12 jurors and two (2) alternates are questioned and selected from a pool of random candidates. After the jury is selected and sworn in, the trial begins in earnest as the defense and the prosecution make opening statements. The prosecution aims to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while the defense seeks to either have the case dismissed or the defendant acquitted. The defense and the prosecution then present witness testimonies. The court examines and cross-examines witnesses. The court then hears evidence presentation and closing arguments. The judge will then charge the jury, who will retire to deliberate and deliver a verdict. If the jury arrives at a unanimous ruling, the defendant can face conviction. At bench trials, there is no jury; the judge alone determines whether a defendant is guilty or innocent.

Can You Be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in New Mexico?

No. It is impossible to be tried twice for the same crime in New Mexico. Federal and state laws protect defendants from excessive punishment through double jeopardy. This law disallows the accused from facing the same charges more than once in New Mexico. If an act is a violation of different crimes or different degrees of the same crime, the accused person cannot face charges a second time with a degree of offense greater than that of the first trial.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in New Mexico?

Looking up a criminal court case in New Mexico is simple. Interested parties may request court records from the Clerk of Court in the court or county where the court heard the case. As provided by the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), public members may freely access public court records. However, the court may charge fees for the production or certification of record copies. Parties can make records requests through the New Mexico courts website. Additionally, interested parties may lookup criminal court cases through the New Mexico Courts Case Lookup or third-party websites.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in New Mexico

The New Mexico Courts Case Lookup provides electronic access to public court records. It can be accessed through the website or a mobile phone app. Users can access records from the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, District Courts, Magistrate Court, and Municipal court. Cases heard and filed before June 1997 may not be available in the Courts Case Lookup database. Municipal court records available on the database are limited to criminal domestic violence records and historic DWI convictions from September 1, 1991.

The Courts Case Lookup does not display the full date of birth in search results. Additionally, the website does not display driver’s license numbers, juvenile case information, family violence protection act order of protection cases. Interested parties may contact the court directly to view or obtain copies of unavailable records. The Courts Case lookup allows three search options:

  • Name search: users can conduct name searches using the following criteria:
    • First, last, and middle name
    • Driver’s license number and state
    • Date or year of birth
    • Court location and type
    • Case category
    • Filing or hearing date
  • Case number search: users can search case records using the case number
  • DWI search: users can search for DWI records using:
    • Full name

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, public court records can be removed by expungement, which means the court will remove the records from public access. As provided by the Criminal Record Expungement Act, non-conviction records can be expunged one year from the disposition date. Conviction records of eligible offenses can be expunged after a waiting period, provided that the record holder has completed all sentence requirements, including payment of all fees or fines. The record holder must not have any pending or ongoing criminal charges. The waiting times for the expungement of conviction records are as follows:

  • Two years for misdemeanors and municipal ordinance violations
  • Four years for aggravated battery and fourth-degree felony convictions
  • Six years for third-degree felony convictions
  • Eight years for second-degree felony convictions
  • Ten years for first-degree felony convictions and crimes against household members

Interested parties may file an expungement motion at the court where the case took place. If the court grants the motion for expungement, it will be as if the conviction never occurred.

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