De Baca County Detention Center Criminal Court Process

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Criminal Court Process for De Baca County New Mexico

Information on the criminal court process for offenders arrested in De Baca County New Mexico and booked into the De Baca County Detention Center. From the arrest to the sentencing and everything in between.

De Baca County Detention Center Criminal Court Process

Criminal Court Process for De Baca County New Mexico

De Baca County New Mexico Criminal Court System – Definitions

It might be helpful to define some words that will be used on this site, when explaining the New Mexico Court System and how it works. The definitions on this site are for general information and not legal advice. It is always preferred to follow information given by your attorney or local authorities.

If you scroll down below this content, and the listing of the courts in De Baca County, you will find a simple flowchart diagram and a video that will help you visualize the stages of the Criminal Court Process.

Arrest is when New Mexico, De Baca County or local police take a person into custody and start the legal process. The arrested person may or may not be immediately jailed. 

In less serious crimes, the person may only be given a citation ordering that they appear in municipal or De Baca County court on a certain date. In cases involving more serious crimes, the person is usually placed in the county jail until an arraignment, or a judge decides the next step.

Booking is when the De Baca County sheriff or local police gather information such as the detainee’s name, address and why the person is being arrested. Booking also includes fingerprinting, criminal history, investigation and verification of identity. Bail for lower-level crimes may be set right after booking so the arrested has the opportunity to “bail or bond out” before being detained.

The prosecution, sometimes called “the government” or “the people” or “the state” is the side that press the charges and seeks punishment for the offense. These are attorneys that work for the state of New Mexico, De Baca County or a city or town. The prosecuting attorney for De Baca County or the district is called the District Attorney or Deputy District Attorney.  A U.S. Attorney prosecutes federal cases.  

Jurisdiction is an important term in the court system that means whether a court has the obligation or duty or right to handle a case.  For example, if you run a red light in your town or city, a municipal court would likely have jurisdiction over your case, but the next town or city over would not have jurisdiction over your case.  If you attempted to flee from police when they attempted to stop you after you ran the red light, it becomes a more serious crime, and the municipal court might not have jurisdiction so you might be assigned to a higher-level court that has jurisdiction over the more serious crime.  Jurisdiction varies from state to state and sometimes county to county.

Arraignment is when a judge determines whether or not the charges are supported by the prosecution’s initial evidence and tells the arrested what they are charged with, and the person says whether they are guilty or not guilty. At this time, the person is called the defendant, and the opposing side is called the prosecution. If there is reason to believe that the arrested is guilty, the judge will set bail conditions or send the defendant to jail or release them ROR (release on recognizances). An arraignment is not a trial, and the defendant is entitled to a trial within a reasonable amount of time after the arraignment.

Bail is money paid that is held by the De Baca County or municipal court to make sure that the arrested does not flee the area before their trial. Bail amounts and other conditions are determined at the arraignment. Once the case is over, the bail money is returned to the defendant.

If a person does not pay bail, they remain in the De Baca County Jail until their trial.  Bail can be denied if the court feels that the arrested would be a danger to others if released. Sometimes the court decides that there is a good chance that the arrested will show up for trial and not flee so they are released on their own promise, or recognizance without having to pay bail.

A bond proceeding is the determination of how much bail is to be paid and usually happens at the same time as an arraignment. During bond proceedings, the defendant can have an attorney present but does not have the right to an attorney. Jailors, law enforcement and prosecutors generally do not have authority to set bail. A judge or court officer in De Baca County or municipal court sets bail. Judges in New Mexico rely on a statewide bail schedule, which sets out a recommended range of bail amounts for different offenses. Judges can still exercise discretion in setting bail above or below the recommended range.

It is always important to have family involvement after being arrested.  Not only can they make calls and communicate on your behalf (not all bond companies will accept collect calls), but family support will show the court that there are people who will make sure that the defendant makes it to court, not only for the defendant’s own good, but because they may have signed bond paperwork and responsible to pay if the defendant does not show in court. Chances of obtaining a bond from a bond company or clerk of court are better if family is involved.  

(There have been phone scams to where a bond company calls and informs a person that their family member has been arrested and they ask for financial information.  A bondsman will not call asking for money without involvement of the arrested.)

In New Mexico, there was a recent study done in 2023 where 95% of people released from jail on a personal recognizance bond while waiting trial did not pick up additional charges, while 5% were charged with another crime.  New Mexico is in the process of reforming its bail system.

A judicial public bond or personal recognizance bond is a bond where someone representing the defendant signs paperwork promising to pay the money if the defendant does not show up to court. If the defendant does not show, the full amount will be due and the people who signed the paperwork will be responsible to pay the court.  Sometimes the court decides that there is a good chance that the arrested will show up for trial and not flee so they are released on their own promise, or recognizance.  

Cash percentage in lieu of bonds.  If the bond order permits, the defendant pays a percentage of the amount, (sometimes up to 100%) to the court, which then holds the money until the case is over. The amount is returned if the defendant is acquitted or the case is dismissed, or it can be used toward paying any court fines incurred by the defendant.

A criminal defense attorney (also called lawyer or counsel) is hired or retained to represent the arrested as early as possible after the arrest.

If there is a chance that the case might go to trial and the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that the court provide an attorney. This is called indigent representation and a public defender or assigned attorney would represent the defendant in all proceedings. Indigent representation is only available misdemeanor and felony cases that could result in jail time, juvenile cases and certain appeal cases.

In New Mexico, the state funds indigent care and provides public defenders in more populated areas.  In rural areas, the courts provide indigent care through contracted attorneys.

For less serious cases or civil cases, there are pro bono volunteers who volunteer legal services for free or for a small fee. They often will hold clinics to teach people how to represent themselves in court or expunge their record which means to legally erase or eliminate a criminal or arrest record from public view. This website provides contact information for pro bono services in New Mexico.

Many courts will provide forms and help for people who want to represent themselves, called pro se.  Here is a link for legal self-help centers in New Mexico.

The fees associated with filing court documents in New Mexico include a $350 filing fee and a $52 administration fee, which totals $402.

A district court can refer to the first level of the legal system, or a minor court. District courts are located in the community.  A district court can also refer to a U.S. Federal District Court that hears federal cases. There is one U.S. federal district court in New Mexico, with offices throughout the state. It is important that you check the address of the court you are to appear in rather than to ask someone because that person might give you directions to the wrong “district” court. Being late to court can land you in custody as well.

Pretrial proceeding is the process where both sides (prosecution and defense) gather information, interview witnesses, request records, videos etc. Pretrial proceedings also include communications with the judge assigned to the case and these appearances are either in person or by on-line conferencing. Some pretrial proceedings may not require a defendant’s appearance, allowing an attorney to appear in their place. The information that is gathered is called discovery and both sides must share the information that they have gathered.  This information does not include conversations between the arrested and their attorney.

Most cases do not go to trial because both sides reach a plea deal, where both sides try to reach a reasonable punishment based on what was learned in the pretrial proceedings.  A plea deal can only happen if the accused person admits they are guilty in exchange for a lighter punishment.  The reason they must admit guilt is because it would not be fair to punish someone who claims they are not guilty.  There are times in plea bargaining when the prosecution agrees to give a lighter sentence in exchange for information leading to the arrest of more serious criminal related to the crime.  

Trial is where both sides share their information in front of a judge or a judge and jury. After listening to all the evidence, the judge or jury decides the verdict which is whether if the person is guilty or not guilty. If a court has only a judge hearing both sides, it is called a bench trial.  If a jury is selected, it is called a jury trial.  If the defendant is found non-guilty, they are released.  If they are found to be guilty, the next step is sentencing.

Sentencing is the punishment that the judge decides the person should get. This could be jail or prison time, fines, community service, probation, or a combination.

Appeal is asking for a higher court to hear the case again at an appellate court.  If the accused person thinks something went wrong at trial or has new information that was not available during the trial or that the sentence is too harsh, the defense attorney can ask for an appeal. It is not unusual for an appeal when there is a long jail sentence, but an appeal can be denied if the appellate court feels that the original trial or sentencing was fair.

In New Mexico, a petty misdemeanor is punished by up to six months in jail, a fine of $500 or both.  A misdemeanor is punished by 6-12 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.
Examples of misdemeanors are trespassing, simple assault, petty theft and shoplifting.

A felony crime is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor and are divided into different classes which are general guidelines and are based on the crime, prior criminal history and other factors.  Examples of felony crimes are murder, rape, theft, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, sex trafficking of a minor, kidnapping and identity theft.  

In New Mexico, if someone is convicted of murder, they must receive a punishment of life in prison times of up to six years in prison.  A first-degree felony carries a sentence of up to 18 years but if the crime led to rape or death of a child, then the maximum penalty is life in prison plus a $17,500 fine.

Second-degree felonies in New Mexico hold a sentence of up to 9 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  A third-degree felony is punished by up to 3 years in prison and fines up to $5000.  A fourth-degree felony is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $2500. All felony punishments are increased if the crime was to a child.

The De Baca County Clerk of Court is an elected official whose responsibilities for Criminal Court’s administrative issues include receiving criminal warrants, receiving bail, creating the trial schedule, receiving fees, fines and maintaining court records.

A warrant is used to get someone to appear in court or to law enforcement.  There must be good reason to believe that the person is involved in a crime. The warrant gives authority to arrest the person and search for evidence for the investigation of the crime. 

A criminal summons is issued to request that a person appear in court at a particular time and date.  It does not involve an arrest.  A traffic ticket, summary citation or lesser misdemeanor could be considered a summons if you are given a court date.

A summary citation, commonly referred to as a ticket, is a criminal summons by a law enforcement officer either in person or via mail accusing the defendant of a minor offense, stating potential fine, listing the court having jurisdiction and instructions for addressing the issue. Defendants may or may not be required to appear in court or handle the matter by entering a plea via mail.

Fines are usually paid to the District Court or clerk of court and payment methods can be found on the District Court or De Baca County Clerk of Court website. If you do not pay your fine on time, you can lose your driver’s license, have to pay additional fees or even have a warrant for your arrest.  It is important to read the instructions on the ticket issued by the police officer or court at the time of your arrest. For a parking ticket or summary citation, the fine amount and how to send payment should be on the ticket. 

New Mexico Criminal Court System - How it Works

Criminal courts in New Mexico include the Bernalillo Metropolitan Court, Municipal Courts, Magistrates Court, District Courts, Courts of Appeals and Supreme Court.

Municipal courts handle violations of municipal ordinances (city laws), traffic violations, parking violations and criminal misdemeanor offenses that occur within the city or towns police jurisdiction. More serious misdemeanors are often handled in the magistrate or district court.

Magistrate courts handle DUI, traffic violations and misdemeanors. Felony convictions can be processed before being transferred to district court. Jury and non-jury trials of misdemeanors can be heard in magistrate courts though most cases in the magistrate courts are traffic related. 

The Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court handles what the municipal and magistrate courts do but unlike the municipal and magistrate court, this court handles all misdemeanors from start to finish including more serious misdemeanors.  At this court, DUI, domestic violence and traffic violations are handled. A felony can be processed before being transferred to district court.  

District courts handle a wide range of cases that were referred from the municipal and magistrate court. Felony cases can originate with the arraignment in district court and stay in the court through trial. Handle appeals from Municipal, Magistrate, and Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courts.  

Juvenile cases are processed within a division of the second judicial district court. Larger district courts in New Mexico have a Family Division that handle juvenile matters. A juvenile in New Mexico is an individual under the age of 18.  The following link provides information regarding juvenile justice in New Mexico.

Specialty courts or problem-solving or treatment courts are being adopted in many states as a way to handle cases that involve non-violent and first-time offender cases in a way to where the offender can retain a job or responsibilities while following specific orders of the court as returned court appearances, periodic evaluations or testing for substances. New Mexico changed the name of treatment court to Department for Therapeutic Justice.

Courts of appeal handles all appeals from lower courts, except those cases that involve capital punishment or life imprisonment.  

Supreme Court is similar to our United States’ Supreme Court because it has a panel of judges that rule on matters that have to do with someone’s constitutional rights or policies and laws. The New Mexico State

Supreme Court has five justices and deals with the New Mexico state constitution or laws or policies. Sometimes the Supreme Court will hear criminal cases on appeal when there is question on the state laws or procedures that lead to the appeal.  The criminal cases are usually referred from the district courts of appeal. 

FEDERAL COURT

Federal Court deals with crimes involving violations of United States laws.  Federal crimes include federal drug trafficking, federal tax evasion and fraud that crossed state lines and include crimes that occur on federal property as post offices or federal buildings.  

Cases involving crimes that involve the FBI or DEA or Immigration agencies are federal crimes. Terrorism is a federal crime. 

There are some differences in the Federal court system as compared to the New Mexico state court system. For example, the attorneys who work for the courts are called United States Attorneys and Federal judges are called District Court Judges (not to be confused by local state district courts).  

Federal Magistrate Judges hear the case early on, but they do not decide on the cases at a trial like the Federal District Court Judges. In a federal case, a grand jury is used for indictments.

There is one U.S. Federal Judicial District in New Mexico.

Courts

DE BACA COURT CLERK
248 E AVENUE C
FORT SUMNER NM, 88119
575-355-2896

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