Early Monday morning February 14, Albuquerque Democrat State Rep. Georgene Louis was booked into a Santa Fe jail on charges of aggravated drunken driving after she was pulled over for speeding late Sunday evening February 13. Representative Louis is an attorney and five-term lawmaker.
According to criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe Municipal Court, she was pulled over by a Santa Fe police officer who clocked her driving her car 17 miles per hour over the speed limit on St. Francis Drive. In the criminal complaint, the arresting officer reported that Louis said she had consumed 2 or 3 vodka drinks. When the officer asked why she was driving so fast, she was reported to have responded “that she just wanted to get home.”
According to the criminal complaint filed, there was a strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the car and the arresting officer noted that Louis’ eyes were bloodshot and watery. Louis allegedly acknowledged her vehicle registration certificate had expired and was not able to provide valid proof of insurance.
The criminal complaint alleges that during a field sobriety test, she swayed and struggled to keep her balance. Two tests revealed a 0.17% blood alcohol content which is more than twice New Mexico’s legal limit. Representive Louis was arrested at 11:55 p.m.
REPRESENTATIVE LOUIS TAKES RESPONSIBILITY
In a statementreleased, Representative louis took responsibility for the incident and said:
“I am sorry and I deeply regret my lapse in judgment. … I know I let so many people down. I am accepting responsibility for my mistake. … I am prioritizing my health, and I will work hard to regain the trust of my constituents, my community and my family.”
Louis is an enrolled member of Acoma Pueblo. She ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic Party’s nomination last year for the open Albuquerque-area congressional seat vacated by Debra Haaland that was eventually won by Melanie Stansbury.
DEMOCRATS SUBDUED REACTION
Not at all surprising, Democrat Speaker of the House Brian Egolf was very subdued in reacting to the arrest and said:
“Georgene is a dear friend and a truly excellent legislator. … Until I have more information about the facts of this incident or the opportunity to speak to her directly, I cannot make any further comment.”
Speaker Egolf, House Majority Leader Javier Martinez of Albuquerque, House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces and caucus chairwoman Wonda Johnson of Church Rock issued a short statement that said:
“We are aware of this developing situation and it is important that we let the judicial process take its course. In the meantime, the legislature will continue its critical work over the next 4 days. As friends and colleagues, we are equally concerned about the wellbeing of Representative Louis and her family in this difficult time.”
DER FÜHRER TRUMP REPUBLICAN PARTYCAHIRMAN PIERCE REACTS
Hypocrite Republicans went into a feeding frenzy over the arrest of Representative Louis demanding her resignation. New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce called on Louis to “do the right thing” and resign and issued the following statement:
“Rep. Louis should do the right thing and resign from her House seat. She faces criminal charges, and this kind of behavior does not coincide with that of a responsible public servant. Rep. Louis has violated the public trust, let down her constituents and endangered the lives of innocents. New Mexico deserves better. Aggravated drunken driving is a serious offense, and Rep. Louis must step down.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Republican State Chairman Steve Pierce is nothing but a hypocrite demanding her immediate resignation. Least anyone forget, Der Führer Trump Republican Chairman Steve Pierce and 2018 candidate for Governor refused to demand the resignation of then rising Republican Star Representative Monica Youngblood when she was arrested in 2018 for aggravated DWI. No one Republican then demanded Youngblood to resign.
Links to quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is not at all likely that Louise will resign before the end of the 2022 session on Thursday, February 17. The big question that remains is if she will resign soon thereafter. Louise is running for another term and may well have ended her career in the legislature.
CRIME BILLS ON FAST TRACK
On Monday February 14, Law Las Cruces Democrat Joseph Cervantes, Chairman of the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee, unveiled during a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Senate Judiciary committees Senate Bill 231 that focuses on the courts, law enforcement retention, training and hiring practices in an effort to deal with New Mexico’s as high rate of violent crime. The fact that there was a joint meeting of the two powerful committees is indicative of the urgency to pass crime legislation with a mere 3 full days left in the 2022 New Mexico 30 legislative session. The proposal cleared the judiciary panel without opposition after two hours of debate and testimony.
Senate Bill 231 contains an array of measures that combined will likely have a far better chance at reducing crime than the pretrial detention measure that was voted. The pretrial detention measure was voted down and substituted with a pretrial monitoring bill.
Senate Bill 231 is a consolidation of measures from some bills passed by the state House and adding new measures. Legislators are also considering proposals to stiffen criminal penalties, but the changes are not part of Bill 231.
Cervantes, a prominent trial attorney, downplayed the measure acknowledging is not the big bold change many wanted in the criminal justice system. However it a far more realistic approach that will have more of an impact in the long run given the complexity of the criminal justice system. He said this about the bill:
“This is not a big bold change where big bold change is needed, but it does some important things.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Muñoz, D-Gallup, had this to say about the bill:
“It’s got to be a balanced approach that we deal with crime.”
SENATE BILL 231 PROVISIONS
Important Senate Bill 231 provisions are as follows:
1. It establishes a statewide violence intervention program modeled on a pilot program in Albuquerque. It would call for intervening with victims of violence who are likely to retaliate with their own violence.
2. It adds a District Court judge in the Albuquerque area and 2 others elsewhere in the state.
3. It provides for grants for strengthening the supervision of criminal defendants who are released while they await trial.
4. It provides for retention bonuses of 5% for law enforcement officers every five years they stay on the job through 20 years of service.
5. It splits the Law Enforcement Academy Board into two panels, one focusing on training and the other on officer misconduct.
6. It Establishes a statewide database on officer’s use of force, termination and civil judgments related to their work. Law enforcement agencies would be required to consult the database when making hiring decisions.
7. It expands the scope of what state crime reduction grants can be used for.
Senate Bill 231 would work in conjunction with House Bill 2 which is the State Budget legislation. The state budget includes raises of almost 16% for State Police officers and increased funding for pretrial services.
PRETRIAL MONITORING VERSUS PRETRIAL DETENTION
On February 7, Senate Bill 189 on “Pre Trial Detention”” was voted down and killed in committee. The bill would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes. The rebuttable presumption bill shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial.
On January 20, the influential Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released a 14-page memo analysis of the proposed “rebuttable presumption of violence” system and pretrial detention. LFC analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial. The LFC report called into serious question if violent crime will be brought down by using a violent criminal charge to determine whether to keep someone accused of a crime in jail pending trial. According to the LFC report, rebuttable presumption is “a values-based approach, not an evidence-based one.” The LFC report said that while crime rates have increased, arrests and convictions have not. The LFC went on to say the promise of “swift and certain” justice has a more significant impact on crime rates that rebuttable presumption does not.
On February 9, it was reported that the “ the rebuttable presumption of being violent” legislation was substituted with legislation that focuses on ankle-monitoring data of defendants released from custody as they await trial. An amended version of House Bill 5 would require the pretrial division of the judiciary to provide around-the-clock monitoring of the locations of people who have been charged with a felony and released before trial. The legislation would require the courts to alert law enforcement if the defendant removes the monitoring unit or visits a prohibited location, such as the home of an alleged victim.
House Bill 5 will require the judiciary to provide the location data to law enforcement officers, prosecutors or public defenders, upon request. During a February 9 House Judiciary Committee hearing, Albuquerque area Democratic Representative Marian Mathews, a sponsor of the bill, said the bill “recognizes the importance of giving our law enforcement agencies the tools they need to effectively combat crime and improve public safety. ” HB 5 cleared the House Judiciary Committee on a 10-2 vote and was forwarded to the full House for consideration where it will likely pass. If the Houses passes , it will also have to make it through the Senate by noon Feb. 17 to reach the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The current budget proposal includes much-needed extra funding for pretrial services.
COURTS MOVING QUICKLY TO ACT
On February 14, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Michael Vigil also addressed the joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Senate Judiciary committees . Justice Vigil said the judiciary plans its own changes intended to streamline court hearings for defendants and ensure law enforcement is alerted immediately if someone cuts off an ankle monitor or enters a prohibited zone.
Justice Vigil said the judiciary is hoping to expand around-the-clock monitoring of pretrial defendants who wear an ankle monitor and issue immediate law-enforcement alerts when needed. He also said the court plans to consider rule changes that would consolidate pretrial detention hearings and preliminary hearings to determine probable cause “so the same resources don’t have to be coming in twice.”
Even though there are only 3 days left in the session, it is likely the bill will move quickly and pass both the Senate and the House.
The link to quoted source material is here:
OTHER CRIME BILL MEASURES PASSED
HOUSE BILL 79
On February 11, House Bill 79 unanimously passed House Bill 79 and was forwarded to the Senate for consideration. HB 79 if passed by the Senate would do 3 things:
1. Raise the maximum sentence for someone convicted of second-degree murder from 15 to 18 years
2. Remove the statute of limitation for the crime
3. Raise the maximum sentence for attempted second-degree murder from three to nine years
State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, a former Assistant District Attorney and a sponsor of Bill 79 said that under current state law, a person can do more time for other crimes than second-degree murder had this to say:
“Murder one and murder two should be the two stiffest penalties on the books, and then everything else should be relative to that, so this will put it as the second stiffest penalty in New Mexico. … A drug trafficker can do 18 years, a murderer – if you can’t prove first-degree – only does 15.”
The bill was forwarded to the Senate for consideration.
HOUSE BILL 68
On February 12, the House voted 50-17 and passed House Bill 68 bill increasing penalties for crimes involving firearms, advancing the proposal on to the Senate for action. The vote on HB 68 did not break down along party lines. Nine Republicans and eight Democrats cast “no” votes on the proposal. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Meredith Dixon and Pamelya Herndon, both Albuquerque Democrats. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham quickly applauded enactment of HB 68 bill which also creates a crime of making a threat of violence targeted at schools or other public places.
HOUSE BILL FIRST TABLED THEN AMENDED
House Bill 68 calls for increased criminal penalties for violent felons found to be in possession of a firearm. It includes a sentencing enhancement for individuals convicted of possessing a gun during aggravated burglary or drug deals. The firearms in question could also be subject to seizure and forfeiture under the proposed legislation. It also creates a crime of making a threat of violence targeted at schools or other public places.
House Bill 68 was initially aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of minors by making adults who fail to secure them subject to criminal charges was first tabled in a House committee. The legislation was then approved on February 12 after it was amended before reaching the House floor, with a provision dealing with deadly weapons in school zones being stripped out.
In its current form, the bill calls for increased criminal penalties for violent felons found to be in possession of a firearm. It also includes a sentencing enhancement for individuals convicted of possessing a gun during aggravated burglary or drug deals. The firearms in question could also be subject to seizure and forfeiture under the proposed legislation.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Since the opening of the 2022 legislative session, and even before it convened, Governor Lujan Grisham has made it a priority for lawmakers to pass crime-related bills to address the state’s increasing violent crime rates. However, most of the Governor’s crime legislation has been defeated primarily because of a failure to get genuine consensus from legislators and relying on news conferences and public relations.
Although the anti-crime legislation moving through the 2022 session may not be as flashy as “pre-trial detention”, all the legislation, along with changes being proposed by the courts, have a far better chance of reducing crime rates. The actions dove tale into what the LFC analysts found which is that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial.
The legislation now pending is an approach that should have been taken from the get go, but flashy solutions like “rebuttable presumption of being violent” always waste time, especially when it’s an election year for a Governor who wants to look “tough on crime”.
The 2020 session ends Thursday, February 17 at noon.