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State police officers must return for court hearings

State police officers provide support for paramedics as they help a man who crashed a scooter on Wednesday evening near Old Town. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

An officer’s role in a case doesn’t end with the arrest of a suspect.

Next, he or she could be required to attend a pre-trial detention hearing, a preliminary hearing or grand jury setting, pre-trial interviews, motion hearings and the trial itself, if there is one, according to a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office.

And that’s in addition to completing or conducting additional investigation and answering questions from prosecutors.

If an officer is not able to participate, the case can be delayed or dismissed altogether.

This could be a problem for many of the New Mexico State Police officers who were brought in from around the state once they return to their far-flung districts.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez. “I can imagine six to eight months from now trying to find a guy in Raton and scheduling him for a hearing.”

He said he had a conversation with the State Police chief and the governor about this matter.

“I think they understand that we’re going to have to see these cases all the way to the end,” Torrez said. “They’re going to have to provide discovery, participate in pre-trial witness interviews because, obviously, without securing a conviction, it has limited impact in the long run.”

So far, the operation has netted “257 total arrests, including several dozen felony arrests and 13 DWI arrests,” the governor said in a statement Wednesday. The majority seem to be related to drug possession, according to jail records.

State Police Chief Tim Johnson said his officers are prepared to follow through with those cases.

“Look, when they have to come back to court, it’s going to take people out of their district again, it’s going to cost money if it’s longer than a one-day trial. … But it’s what we do,” Johnson said. “There’s no sense in arresting folks if you’re not going to show up for court on the back end of that.”

Journal staff writer Matthew Reisen contributed to this report.

 

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