N.M. Senate Bill 96 Passed Committee Increasing 2nd Degree Murder from 3 to 9, to 15 to 18 Years


New Mexico Considers Increasing Sentencing Guidelines

On Friday in the New Mexico Roundhouse the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee voted 6 yes and 3 nay, to back a proposal to increase the penalties for attempted and second-degree murder.

Senate Bill 96 was proposed by Senator Moe Maestas of Albuquerque. The bill would increase the penalty for second-degree attempted murder from three years to nine years. It also would increase the basic sentence for second-degree murder from 15 to 18 years.

Maestas told the committee the changes would make New Mexico’s criminal code more consistent with the rest of the nation and surrounding states. Under existing New Mexico law a second-offense drug dealer or and individual committing a variety of white collar crimes such as fraud or even theft faces more prison time than someone convicted of second-degree murder!

Since many murders that are originally classified as a premeditation is difficult to prove, many killings end up getting pleaded down with District Attorneys in New Mexico to a second degree murder resulting in shock to the families of victims when they learn the killer is facing only 15 years in prison.

Senate Bill 96 amends the Criminal Offenses and Criminal Procedure statutes to increase the basic sentence for Attempt to Commit Second Degree Murder and the basic sentence for Second Degree Murder.

Specifically, SB 96 amends the attempt-to-commit-a-felony statute, NMSA 1978, Section 30-28- 1, to add a new subparagraph (Paragraph C) that provides a special penalty for attempted murder in the second degree, increasing what would ordinarily be a three-year sentence into a nine-year sentence.

Regarding the basic sentence for Second Degree Murder, SB 96 amends NMSA 1978, Section 31-18-15(A), to increase the basic sentence for the commission of a second-degree felony resulting in the death of a human being from 15 years to 18 years. These changes to the second-degree murder statutes would better align the sentencing for these violent offenses with the gravity of the offenses themselves.

The changes to the criminal statutes will have an immediate positive impact on public safety and will not present significant fiscal implications to the State of New Mexico.

There will be an additional budgetary load to the Department of Corrections, but those costs may be offset by the corresponding, significant reduction of costs imposed on the State by recidivist crime among serious violent offenders.

SB 96 could potentially impact future funding needs of the Department, as more violent offenders would be completing longer sentences. Due to fluctuations in the inmate population, the complete financial impact may present measurement challenges as the new sentencing standards take effect.

At the FY23 expenditure level, the current average cost per inmate per year is $57,103.

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