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Former chief justice recognized for work on pretrial justice

A former state Supreme Court chief justice is being recognized by a national association for his efforts to reform New Mexico’s pretrial release and detention system.

Charles Daniels

The National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies has selected retired justice Charles Daniels for a special recognition award, saying he was “a driving force behind changes to promote pretrial justice and public safety through evidence-based practices in New Mexico’s courts.”

Daniels wrote an opinion in a 2014 case in which the court ruled that setting a defendant’s bail solely based on the charged offense violated the Constitution and rules of criminal procedure. And it was while he served as chief justice that the court recommended a constitutional amendment that would ultimately move New Mexico away from the monetary bond system.

Under the current system, decisions about whether a defendant should await trial in or out of custody are made based on evidence of his or her risk of flight and danger to the public.

“Before Justice Daniels led the way on pretrial reform, the most dangerous defendants and those most likely to flee before trial could buy their way out of jail with a money bail bond. Today, our communities are safer because that is no longer true,” Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said in a news release Thursday. “Reforms promoted by Justice Daniels allow judges to properly distinguish between truly dangerous defendants who should stay in jail pretrial and lower-risk defendants who under our laws should remain free until a trial determines whether they are guilty.”

NAPSA Executive Director Jim Sawyer said in the release that the award recognizes Daniels “for his exemplary leadership, integrity and commitment to the principles of pretrial justice.”

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