Legislative session: Crime and courts

Compiled by John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 1/31/19

Background checks for gun sales: Led by bill sponsors Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Española and Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, House Bill 8 would make conducting a federal background check when …

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Legislative session: Crime and courts

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Background checks for gun sales: Led by bill sponsors Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Española and Rep. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, House Bill 8 would make conducting a federal background check when selling a firearm mandatory for nearly everyone in New Mexico. Violating the proposed legislation would be charged as a misdemeanor, according to the proposal. Law enforcement agencies, officers and people with a valid federal firearms license would be among the few parties exempt from the proposed legislation.

Restrictions on enforcing federal immigration laws: Senate Bill 196 is aimed at preventing New Mexico’s state agencies and its municipalities, including “home rule” communities, from utilizing public resources to enforce federal immigration laws. The proposal has been brought to this year’s legislative session in the midst of ongoing efforts by the Trump administration to tighten restrictions on illegal immigration along the country’s southern border with Mexico.

Recreational marijuana: If passed, House Bill 356, or “The Cannabis Regulation Act,” would legalize and tax recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older in the state. While medical marijuana is currently legal in the state, Democrats have tried for years to lift the “prohibition” of recreational pot. Eleven states across the country had fully legalized recreational marijuana in 2018.

Although doing so has opened up a lucrative source of tax revenue for those areas, there are also drawbacks. Taos Police Chief David Trujillo said New Mexico would likely see an uptick in an already high rate of impaired driving cases if the bill were to pass. “There is definitely a statistical rise in DUI-related incidents and other enforcement issues impacting all agencies,” he said.

The proposed legislation would also impose steep taxes through the “Cannabis Tax Act,” which would, in part, direct funds toward addiction treatment resources that are sorely needed in the state. Some advocates for legalization have also suggested marijuana can be utilized as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Expanded restrictions on firearms possession: House Bill 87 would broaden the categories of individuals who may not be in possession of a firearm or destructive device. Current legislation makes it illegal for convicted felons to be in possession of these weapons, but the new bill would also create penalties for people convicted of domestic violence, including aggravated battery and aggravated battery against a household member, criminal damage to property belonging to a household member and stalking. Violations of the legislation would be penalized as fourth-degree felonies upon the first offense.

Three strikes equals life sentence: House Bill 103 would impose a mandatory life sentence to offenders convicted of three violent felonies, with few exceptions that would allow for parole. The crimes must be part of separate occurrences, according to the proposed legislation. Violent felony convictions incurred in other states that carry an equivalent penalty in New Mexico would count toward the “three strikes” necessary to impose the mandatory sentence.

– Compiled by John Miller

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