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Bail bondsman convicted of two fraud charges

Defense attorney calls verdict ‘miscarriage of justice’


FARMINGTON — Daniel Goldberg Sr. has been convicted of fraud for extorting money from a woman who secured a bond through his bail bond company.

Goldberg was convicted of fourth-degree felony fraud and petty misdemeanor fraud on Friday after a two-day jury trial in district court, according to San Juan County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien.

Goldberg was charged with fraud after he collected two payments — $950 and $100 — from a woman who did not owe money on her bond from a September 2014 arrest, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison, and the petty misdemeanor charge has a maximum of six months, O’Brien said. A sentencing date has not been set.

Goldberg’s attorney, Eric Morrow, said Friday’s verdict was a “miscarriage of justice.” He said several rulings during the trial adversely affected the outcome.

Morrow said he plans to file a motion for mistrial and a motion to set aside the verdict. He said the court allowed a witness to testify who is not qualified to give testimony about bonds in New Mexico.

Morrow said that based on a conversation he had with a juror after the trial, he believes the verdict was based on misinformation.

When asked about Morrow’s statements, O’Brien said it’s common for defense attorneys to search for reasons to challenge a verdict.


The case was one of three involving Goldberg that were scheduled to go to trial this year, according to court records.

In another case, Goldberg faces 11 felony charges for fraud, extortion and racketeering, along with five misdemeanor fraud charges, for similar allegations made by people who bonded with several businesses associated with Goldberg.

That case is scheduled for trial on Aug. 15, according to court records.

Another case involving eight felony fraud charges against Goldberg in connection to his activities as a bail bondsman is scheduled for trial on May 4, according to court records.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.

Bail on NM ballot: Should money determine freedom?

Tom Chudzinski, 62, spent 34 days in jail in Albuquerque because he couldn't get $50 to post bond following an arrest on a drunken driving charge. His case was dismissed for lack of evidence, but he still lost his motorhome, a lifetime of belongings and clothes. Credit: Stuart Palley for Reveal

Stuart Palley for Reveal

Tom Chudzinski, 62, spent 34 days in jail in Albuquerque because he couldn’t get $50 to post bond following an arrest on a drunken driving charge. His case was dismissed for lack of evidence, but he still lost his motorhome, a lifetime of belongings and clothes. Credit: Stuart Palley for Reveal

Tom Chudzinski rode out of Albuquerque on a Greyhound bus before the sun rose one morning last month, his only remaining possessions tucked into a backpack, a small duffel bag and a cardboard box, which held his disassembled bicycle.

The retired architect had pulled into Albuquerque five months earlier in a motorhome crowded with the keepsakes from his 62 years of life: power tools, drafting instruments, personal records and clothing. He was living in the home while traveling the western U.S.

The unraveling began on June 3, when Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputies knocked on the door of his motorhome and, smelling alcohol on his breath, arrested him on suspicion of drunken driving. Although they hadn’t seen him driving, they believed he had crashed his RV into a parked vehicle at a truck stop that sits on a dusty patch of mesa on the city’s far west side.

Two days later, a judge set Chudzinski’s bond at $500 cash or surety after considering his lack of ties to Albuquerque and reviewing his record — a handful of petty misdemeanor charges from California in the 1970s, a drunken driving conviction in 2012, and a guilty plea to felony battery that stemmed from a fight with his brother in 2006.

That meant just $50 paid to a bail bondsman would have set him free while his case was pending.

Chudzinski, who gets by on a meager fixed income, could not come up with the cash. And none of the  bondsmen he called from the county jail would put up the paltry sum for his release because he had no ties to the area.

Chudzinski sat behind bars for 34 days. He read books, watched fights break out. The food was bad. Noticing his pronounced jowls and ski-slope nose, Chudzinski’s fellow inmates nicknamed him “Mr. President,” after Richard Nixon.

His public defender asked a different judge to drop the bond. On July 7, that judge released him on his own recognizance. But his troubles were far from over.

By the time his case was dismissed last month for lack of evidence, Chudzinski was living in Albuquerque homeless shelters and eating meals at free kitchens. His motorhome with most of his possessions trapped inside sat on an impound lot, accruing fees he also couldn’t afford.

“I really don’t have any other choice right now other than to live out on the street,” Chudzinski says in his public defender’s office not long after the dismissal of his case. “I don’t have really anything other than what the homeless shelter can give me as far as clothes and a place to stay.”

The details of Chudzinski’s story might seem extreme, but time spent in jail due to financial hardship as a person’s case wends through the courts is hardly rare in New Mexico. Hundreds of people with low bonds like Chudzinksi’s sat in the Bernalillo County jail for three days or more during July, August and September, according to reports compiled for Bernalillo County and provided to New Mexico In Depth and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Despite multiple requests, Bernalillo County refused to provide raw data that would have allowed a more thorough examination of who is sitting in jail, what their bonds are and how long they stay incarcerated.

The incomplete picture aside, on Nov. 8, New Mexicans will vote on a constitutional amendment to overhaul the use of commercial bail in the state. Early voting already has begun. The system that swallowed Tom Chudzinski and continues to ensnare thousands of others around the country is ripe for a reordering, reformers say.

The nation’s justice system rests on the premise that people are innocent until proven guilty. Yet commercial bail programs undermine that promise: those with money may go free no matter how dangerous they are while non-violent, low-income people often sit behind bars waiting for their trials.

The U.S. Department of Justice considers the commercial bail system largely unconstitutional, disproportionately affecting poor people and, in many cases, minorities. Reformers point out that the United States is one of only two countries that uses a private, for-profit bail system. The Philippines is the other.

Policy makers in Washington, D.C. and statehouses across the country are debating whether and how to reform the criminal justice system, with bail one front in the battle.

New Mexico now finds itself at the center of that fight.

The amendment on the New Mexico ballot would bar judges from holding non-dangerous people in jail solely because they can’t pay their way out. It also would allow them to deny bail to defendants who are proven dangerous.

The push for the amendment in 2015 coincided with the killing of two police officers and an increase in crime in the state’s largest city. The accused shooters were both repeat violent offenders, but they were not out on bail. Since then, three more New Mexico police officers have been fatally shot in the line of duty.

If the amendment passes, New Mexico will join five states — Colorado, Oregon, Kentucky, Illinois and New Jersey — that have scrapped or curtailed the use of commercial bail, as has the District of Columbia, where only about 15 percent of people are jailed pending trial. That number is about 40 percent in New Mexico.

Many believe the amendment, which would diminish but not abolish commercial bail, could create a more equitable system. But concerns remain about whether it opens the door to potential abuse.

There has been no public polling on the ballot measure. But a veteran New Mexico election watcher and pollster believes it has a good chance of passing because it is written with a “positive spin.” Many voters, the pollster says, will encounter the proposal for the first time in the voting booth.

“Ballot language matters,” says Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling, Inc.

From worst to merely bad

For years, New Mexico had one of the nation’s highest rates of pretrial incarceration. It remains high, but a November 2014 state Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Charles Daniels spotlighted a decades-old system many had used but few had questioned – at least publicly.

Walter Brown, a murder defendant, had spent more than two years in jail before trial on a bond he could not afford. The state’s top court ruled that bail had been set too high, violating the state constitution. The case made no new law, but Daniels, who has become New Mexico’s leading  reform advocate, admonished judges to use bail only for its original purpose: to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court.

Judges like Sharon Walton in Albuquerque took note.

On a recent Wednesday morning, Walton’s misdemeanor docket ticks past at a brisk clip. For 17 years, she has sat on the bench at Metropolitan Court, the state’s busiest, in its most populous county.

On this day, 24 defendants, all of limited means, appear by video uplink from the county jail. Dressed in orange jumpsuits, they look like goldfish in a crowded bowl. Hadley Brown, an assistant public defender, also appears on the video screen, standing next to her clients.

She is meeting them for the first time.

Walton’s job at proceedings like these is to decide first whether probable cause exists that the defendant committed the crime, then whether they stay in jail. If they are released, she must set the conditions.

These are difficult, life-altering decisions, and the judge has limited information in front of her: a brief report on the defendant’s history from a background investigator and the charging documents, written by police officers.

Hadley Brown asks Walton to release most of the defendants, which is routine. Occasionally, the assistant district attorney, who sits in the courtroom, objects. The background investigator makes recommendations, too.

Walton releases some defendants on their own recognizance, others to pretrial supervision. She requires some to sign a document promising to pay the court money if they don’t return. And, for just a few of them, she orders a cash or surety bond, meaning the defendant pays a bail bonds company a fee — usually 10 percent of the total amount — and the company puts up the rest.

Before the Brown decision in 2014, Walton, like the other judges at Metro Court, relied heavily on cash or surety bonds — and the bondsmen who sell them.

Justice Daniels’ order led her to start to see things differently. Later came a cold splash of water in the face.

“About six months, a year ago, there was some case in the media, and I turned and I looked at my husband and I said: ‘What if I have kept somebody in jail that didn’t belong there?’ Walton says in an interview, just off the bench and wearing her judge’s robe. “And he looked at me and he said: ‘Of course you have.’”

Metropolitan Court Judge Shardon D. Walton, who hears cases in Bernalillo County, said she started to see the cash bail system differently after a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that a defendant's bail had been set too high.

Metropolitan Court Judge Sharon D. Walton, who hears cases in Bernalillo County, said she started to see the cash bail system differently after a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that a defendant’s bail had been set too high. Credit: Marjorie Childress/New Mexico In Depth

Two years after the Brown ruling, some of its effects have been documented. It contributed to a 50 percent drop in the Metropolitan Detention Center’s population — from about 2,800 in 2014 to about 1,400 now. Tighter speedy trial rules, fewer officers making fewer arrests and other factors helped to shrink the number of inmates, too.

Court officials, attorneys, policy makers and the bail bonds industry continue to debate the legacy of the 2014 ruling, however.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials say the case has led to the release of too many dangerous people as judges try to adhere to the Brown decision’s “least restrictive means” principle when setting conditions of release.

Assistant District Attorney Candace Coulson points to a man she is prosecuting for the 15th time in five years for everything from auto burglary to armed robbery. He has posted relatively low bonds for several of the charges, Coulson says.

“It is a very powerless feeling, because you just stand there and you know what you know and there’s nothing that you can do about it,” she says. “And do you feel completely helpless.”

Public defenders say despite the 2014 ruling too many of their clients who are not dangerous still languish in jail on low bonds as they await trial.

“I have had judges say: ‘I don’t want you getting out of jail. I’m setting bond at $10,000 cash,’” Hadley Brown says. “The judges aren’t always that up front about it, but judges constantly set bonds that they know absolutely that the defendant cannot post.”

She mentions one of her clients as an example: Tom Chudzinski.

Judge Walton is mindful of the competing perspectives.

“The idea that somebody might get hurt because I allowed somebody to get out? Obviously you know we all dread that,” she says.

But jailing people prior to establishing their guilt — just because they don’t have money — exacerbates a perception that there are “two systems of justice,” Walton says.

“That causes people to doubt and distrust the whole criminal justice system, and then that leads to all kinds of social ills,” she says.

On a recent Thursday morning, Tom Chudzinski finishes a cup of coffee in The Rock at NoonDay ministry’s large gymnasium, not two miles from the Metro courthouse where his $500 bond was set.

As he walks outside, Chudzinski’s skin is rough and ruddy from so much time spent homeless and in the elements. He thinks back on what happened after the judge set his bond.

“I’m not a violent person,” he says. “I’m not a threat to society. There’s really no reason to hold a person like me in jail. A lot of the deputies in jail would look at me and say: ‘Hey, what are you doing in here? You don’t fit here at all.’ And it just took them 34 days to realize that maybe I don’t.”

Reform is not a new conversation

The latest national movement to reform the cash bail system follows in the steps of 1960s reformers.

Robert F. Kennedy began agitating against the commercial bail system in 1964, when he was U.S. attorney general. Two years later, Congress passed the Bail Reform Act, essentially doing away with commercial bail in the federal system. Little has changed in the states, though.

As one of the point people for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative, Lisa Foster has included bail reform in her traveling DOJ roadshow in recent months.

Foster cites two concerns with the cash bail system. First, poor people are treated differently from people with access to money who have similar criminal histories and are charged with similar crimes, she says. That’s a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

“We (also) worry that people who are held pre-trial may feel compelled to plead guilty to an offense for which they may not be guilty just to get out of jail,” she says.

Justice Department lawyers have filed amicus briefs in court cases to push for reform, most recently in a Georgia case involving the bail system there. It marked the first time the department had weighed in on a federal appeals court case.

Matthew Coyte, president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, was born and raised in Great Britain and remembers his introduction to the system.

“I walked into a courtroom and everyone’s in chains and jumpsuits in a misdemeanor court,” Coyte says of people who had not been found guilty. “I was flabbergasted. But it’s very normal in New Mexico.”

For years, lawyers have discussed their concerns among one another. But that conversation has never been so public as it is now.

“I always had an uneasiness about this money bail system but I never really focused on it that much either as a lawyer, which I was (for) 38 years, including some time as a law professor, and in the years I’ve been on the court,” says Justice Daniels.

Out of nearly 20 people involved in the criminal justice system interviewed for this story, none could say how or why the system developed as it did.

“It’s going to be hard to find evil villains in this,” Daniels says. ”This is one of those things that sort of grew by drift over the years. It’s happened all over the country.”

What’s clearer is the impact the system can have on people’s lives.

Chudzinski didn’t have the cash to claim his motorhome when he was released from jail in July. Daily impound fees reached $1,400 while he sat behind bars. When he left jail, he had nowhere to live.

He faces a potential forfeiture proceeding on the motorhome because he can’t pay the impound fees. It is unclear what his options are.

I had a lot of personal pictures and just financial records from businesses that I owned, personal financial records, things that I wanted: tools that I’ve had for 40 years,” he says. “Just lots and lots of personal things that are now gone. And I doubt that I will ever see them again.”

Reformers say Chudzinski’s case exemplifies how the current system disproportionately affects the poor, a particularly salient point in New Mexico, where one in five residents live below the poverty line — the nation’s second highest rate.

They also point to studies that show low-level defendants with minimal criminal histories are more likely to lose jobs, housing and custody of their children after two or three days in jail. And low-level defendants are more likely to commit new crimes if they are jailed for longer than 24 hours, the studies show.

Numbers are hard to come by

State officials have estimated the amendment, if passed, would reduce New Mexico’s pre-trial detention population by 10 percent and save taxpayers here $18 million. It costs $72 a day to house inmates in county jails.

But that estimate is based on studies conducted in other states that have enacted bail reform. Determining the number of people like Tom Chudzinski who sit in jail around New Mexico due to financial hardship is difficult.

Last year, in a survey by the New Mexico Association of Counties, 19 of the state’s 28 county jails reported about 100,000 jail bookings total in fiscal year 2015. Two out of three defendants were being held pretrial. That’s similar to what researchers have found in county jails nationwide. But the New Mexico survey, like the national research, didn’t show how many of those were in jail solely because they could not afford bond. Nor is it clear how many of those defendants could have been held in jail because they were dangerous. And the group’s survey did not include figures from the Bernalillo County jail, by far the state’s largest.

Over the course of several months NMID and Reveal requested access to raw data from the Metropolitan Detention Center and the state court system. The goal was to examine the jail population based on a variety of factors, including bond amounts, length of stay and race and ethnicity. Bernalillo County officials denied the requests, however.

Instead, the county’s contractors at the Institute for Social Research provided three “monthly reports,” each of which took a snapshot of a single day: July 31, August 31 and Sept. 30. On average, for those three days, about 170 people had been sitting in the Bernalillo County jail three days or longer on bonds of $5,000 or less. In most of those cases, that means the person could have bought his or her freedom for $500 or less – roughly 10 percent of the overall bond amount.

That’s about 40 percent of all those being held on bond in the jail on each of those days, the reports show.

The origin story of the constitutional amendment  

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Brown case, which was unanimous, signaled that the justices no longer had a tolerance for lower court judges using commercial bail to hold non-dangerous people of limited means in jail.

Charles W. Daniels, chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, has pushed to amend the state Constitution to reform bail, which voters will weigh on Election Day.

Charles W. Daniels, chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, has pushed to amend the state Constitution to reform bail, which voters will weigh on Election Day. Credit: Marjorie Childress/New Mexico In Depth

But Daniels and others felt current law still left judges with the untenable choice — the one Judge Walton described: Choosing between someone’s constitutional rights and safe streets.

So he and allies began lobbying the New Mexico Legislature to approve the constitutional amendment during this year’s regular legislative session.

The bail bond industry pounced.

Gerald Madrid, whose family has been in the bail bonds business for three generations, says the Brown decision has led to a massive reduction in clients for his family business. It forced judges to use more “unsecured bonds,” when defendants promise to pay the court if they don’t show up for hearings. Judges also are releasing more people to pretrial supervision programs, or with no conditions at all.

The constitutional amendment cleared the Legislature, but not before the bondsmen and their lobbyists won a concession: State lawmakers agreed to language that would allow judges to require proof of poverty from defendants. The bondsmen argued anyone could claim poverty and escape the obligations of a money bond, cutting into the industry’s profits and letting dangerous people go free.

The New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico were wary from the start because of a provision in the amendment that would allow judges to deny certain defendants bail. They believed it could ensnare people who are not dangerous. But they supported the amendment.

The two groups withdrew support after lawmakers agreed to the bondsmens’ proposed requirement for proof of poverty, saying it could place an undue burden on poor people and lead to longer stints in jail before trial.

Coyte, president of the defense lawyers’ group, says the bail system needs to change, but questions whether a constitutional amendment is necessary.

The problem, he says, is that judges aren’t following the current rules that allow them to deny bail to some murder defendants and to place temporary holds on other violent offenders. The judges also have discretion to release people who are not dangerous and are charged with minor offenses without money determining whether they go free.

“The current bail system in New Mexico, if it were applied according to the rules, wouldn’t be that bad,” he says.

The Madrid family agrees with Coyte that the constitutional amendment isn’t necessary, but for different reasons. They say the bail system is not broken. It’s the best way to make sure defendants come back to court after they are released from jail.

Despite the concerns, there has been no negative advertising and no glossy mailers asking voters to reject the ballot measure.

Bondsmen say they provide needed service

Bail bondsman Gerald Madrid, standing outside his Albuquerque office, thinks New Mexico’s money bail system does not need to be reformed. Credit: Marjorie Childress/New Mexico In Depth

Gerald Madrid’s office is a few blocks from the courthouse. On a shelf are photographs of Madrid with reality TV star and bail bonds superhero Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman and David Clarke, the firebrand conservative Milwaukee County sheriff.

The Madrids have been in business in Albuquerque for three generations. Gerald Madrid says he has helped release some 60,000 people facing criminal charges in the last 30 years. Business was so good his brother, John Madrid, and other relatives opened their own bail bond companies.

Since the Brown decision, however, New Mexico judges’ reluctance to set the kinds of high-dollar surety bonds that for years were the Madrids’ bread and butter have led some members of the clan to consider pulling in their shingles.

They do more than make money off the system, the Madrids say. They ensure  defendants show up to court.

“There’s nothing that’s put up in advance, other than a defendant’s promise to return to court.,” Gerald Madrid says. “… the judge is relying on the defendant to bring himself to court with no consequences if he doesn’t.”

The brothers say arrest warrants have increased since the Brown decision, and fewer defendants are showing up for their court dates. Their contention contradicts the latest numbers. The Administrative Office of the Courts shows a decrease in the number of warrants issued since the Brown decision.

The Madrids, like national bail bonds industry groups, have vocally opposed bail reform. But since their legislative victory earlier this year, the family has not actively opposed the amendment here.

‘So much better than the status quo’

Even among those who support change, there is apprehension about how the amendment is written.

“It’s very confusing in some respects,” says Coyte of the defense lawyers association.

Kate Thompson, an assistant public defender, is struggling with her decision and likely to vote against the measure, she says.

“As far as what I see in misdemeanors, I don’t think the bail amendment would necessarily make a huge difference,” Thompson says, sitting in her office near a stack of case files. “I think it could make it worse in terms of arguing about a defendant’s ability to pay.”

Justice Daniels says the concerns about the constitutional amendment are unfounded. He dismisses the bondsmens’ objections as financially motivated. And he says bail reform in Washington, D.C. 20 years ago did not lead to judicial abuses as Coyte and others suggest might happen in New Mexico.

“I think they were worried that this amendment was going to result in a greater detention of people prior trial than currently exists,” he says. “I think they’re absolutely wrong about that. I think history will show it to be so … This amendment clearly is going to be so much better than the status quo for all concerned.”

Tom Chudzinski with his bike on the residential street in Mission Viejo, CA where he is currently staying.

Stuart Palley for Reveal

Tom Chudzinski with his bike on the residential street in Mission Viejo, CA where he is currently staying. Credit: Stuart Palley for Reveal

As for Tom Chudzinski, he won’t be voting in New Mexico come November.

On Sept. 28, he walks out of the Albuquerque Outreach Center dragging a cardboard box containing his disassembled bicycle. He carries a small duffel bag in one hand and has a backpack slung over his other shoulder

“One of the bad things that happens when you go to jail is you lose the ability to function in the world,” Chudzinski says. “A whole big portion of your life stops, and it stays that way until you can put it back together.”

Half an hour later, he is at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Albuquerque. One of the homeless outreach organizations has purchased him a ticket to Mission Viejo, California, where he will stay with family.

He is glad to be leaving the city.

“At 62, I can’t continue to keep doing this,” he says.

He considers all that has happened because he couldn’t scrounge up $50 for bail — and all he must do to get his life back to normal.

“At my age, it’s really not something I really had planned to have happen to me.”

Sunset Spas will host a grand opening celebration Saturday 11/12/2016

FARMINGTON — A new family-owned hot tub business has opened its doors and will have a grand opening celebration Saturday.

Sunset Spas at 712 E. 20th St. is located in the building that previously housed Happy Time Spas. The new business is the latest venture for Lynn and Andy Howell and their two children.

The couple owns two other Farmington companies, Howell Bonding Agency and Four States Monitoring Inc. While they did not plan to branch out into the spa business, after Andy Howell drove by the empty building and learned it was available, the couple decide to try something new. His wife added that her husband’s parent owned a sports supply shop at the location when he was a child.

“He thought we could really do something with the building, and this was also an opportunity to own a completely different business,” Lynn Howell said.

The store features the Artesian Spas line of hot tubs, which is known for its quieter models, Lynn Howell said. Special lighting, Bluetooth audio and waterfalls are among the features available on certain models.

Also on display are smaller plug-in spas for apartments or smaller yards. The store can also refurbish and sell older models and plans to order different colors and models, like swim spas, if that’s what customers want.

“We’ll even come pick up your old spa for free, and you can use it for credit on a new purchase,” Lynn Howell said.

While the store focuses on selling hot tubs and parts, it also displays a small selection of electric heating stoves and can order other types of stoves, such as wood-burning and pellet stove models.

Lynn Howell said a main motivation for opening the new business was to teach the couple’s two children, Lexi and Zack, how to start a business from scratch and what ownership entails.

 “It was kind of exciting,” said Lexi Howell, about her reaction when her parents shared the news that they were buying a spa business. “It was unexpected, but I was really happy about it.”

Saturday’s grand opening will feature refreshments and music by Sheldon Pickering. The first 10 customers to purchase a spa will receive free accessories and treatment chemicals for one year.

Lynn Howell said the store offers financing plans, so she hopes customers who are considering whether or not they could afford to purchase a spa will take a look on Saturday.

“It’s been fun to meet the people who have been stopping in — they’re excited we’re here,” she said.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.

If you go

What: Sunset Spas grand opening

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday

Where: 712 E. 20th St. in Farmington

Information: Go to the Sunset Spas Facebook page at

Compromise puts cash bail reform before voters; By Jeff Proctor, New Mexico In Depth

Person voting

New Mexico voters will decide in November whether to change the state Constitution and give judges more flexibility in the use of cash bail bonds — allowing them to hold dangerous defendants in jail without bond before trial and limiting their ability to keep non-dangerous people behind bars solely because they cannot afford bond.

Currently, judges set bond for nearly every criminal defendant who comes before them.

In a concurrence vote this morning, the state Senate passed unanimously a revised version of the lawmaking body’s proposed constitutional amendment on bail reform.

Senators passed the measure earlier this month on a vote of 29-9. That sent Senate Joint Resolution 1 to the state House, which made a substantial change to SJR1’s provision that deals with indigent defendants before unanimously voting to send the revised proposal back to the Senate.

The change, which requires defendants to petition the court if they wish to claim they can not afford to bond out, appears to have satisfied objections to bail reform from its primary opponents: the bail bonds industry and its lobbyists.

Gerald Madrid, president of the Bail Bonds Association of New Mexico, foreshadowed the change in an interview with Mexico In Depth last month. Madrid said he suspected people would use poverty as an “excuse” to get out of jail, and lamented SJR1’s lack of a proof standard for people claiming indigence.

The provision in SJR1 that deals with dangerous defendants was unchanged in the House.

But the eleventh hour additions to SJR1 also cost it some of the broad-based support it had gathered in the months before the legislative session.

The New Mexico affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and the state Criminal Defense Lawyers Association backed away from the amended proposal, saying it had the potential to negatively impact poor people who are not dangerous by extending the time they spend in jail.

Steve Allen, policy director for the ACLU-NM, told NMID in an interview that his organization supported SJR1 because of “clear, direct language enshrining that right for indigent defendants in our constitution.”

That language read as follows: “A person who is not a danger and is otherwise eligible for bail shall not be detained solely because of financial inability to post a money or property bond.”

During House negotiations between key lawmakers, the bail bonds industry and others, this language was added to the proposal: “A defendant who is neither a danger nor a flight risk and who has a financial inability to post a money or property bond may file a motion with the court requesting relief from the requirement to post bond. The court shall rule on the motion in an expedited manner.”

Allen characterized that language as “muddled” and said it would fit better in a court rule than in the constitution.

“The truth is we’re not 100 percent sure what effect it will have,” he said. “From an ACLU perspective, from a civil liberties perspective: will it improve the way things work? Will it make things work? We’re hopeful it will have a positive effect, and we think it could, but we just don’t know.”

Allen said the ACLU did not attempt to stop the measure after it was amended.

“The original bill addressed the disparity and fundamental unfairness that allows the wealthy to post a bond while the common citizen sits in jail waiting for a trial,” Matt Coyte, president of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said in a news release. “This new version no longer holds true to that goal.”

State Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels, a leading and visible proponent for bail reform in New Mexico during the legislative session and before, said in an email to NMID that he expects the apprehension surrounding changes to SJR1 to prove “substantially unfounded” over time.

Daniels confirmed that he had been among the group that crafted the changes to the proposed constitutional amendment, but said he did not control the process.

“While the current version is not what I would have written, I support it because it is the best improvement over the status quo that is possible to accomplish at this time,” Daniels said. “It provides for evidence-based, instead of resource-based, release and detention decisions on potentially dangerous defendants, and it provides a new protection against resource-based detention for low-risk defendants.”

Constitutional amendments do not require approval from the governor. So, SJR1 will head to the ballot in November, and voters will get the final say on whether the cash bail system in New Mexico gets changed.

So You Want To Bond Someone Out Of Jail?

General Bail (Bond) Information

What is bail?  Bail or bond (in this case, bail and bond mean the same thing) is an amount of money in cash, property, or surety bond for the purpose of making sure that a person attends all required court appearances.  Bond allows an arrested person (defendant) to be released from jail until his or her case is completed.

Who can post bond?  Any person can post his or her own bond.  If the defendant can’t afford to bond himself or herself out of jail, any other person age 18 or older can post the bond.

If I bond someone out of jail, when will I get my money back?  It could take months.  If you post a cash bond, you might get some or all of your cash bond back, but it won’t be until the case is finished and the necessary paperwork has been processed.  The law lets the Court use the cash bond to pay any fine or costs which might be assessed the defendant. If you post a surety bond, you will not get the surety bondsman’s fee or the Sheriff’s fee back.

Cash Bonds

What is a cash bond?  A cash bond is the full amount of the bond required, paid in cash, to release a defendant from jail.

How much does a cash bond cost?  CASH BOND/BAIL
To be released on cash bail, a person must post with the court the total amount of the bail, in cash, to secure his/her return to court on an appointed date, and thereafter until the case is finished. Full cash bonds are an incentive for defendants to appear at trial. If the defendant appears for his/her court appearances, the cash will be returned to you within 60-90 days. However, if he/she fails to appear, the cash bond is forfeited to the court! NOTE: Some courts will keep a small fee (usually 3%) and can also deduct any fines from the cash bond you put up.

How do I post a cash bond?  For instructions on how to post a cash bond, call your local Sheriff’s Office. Note:  You do not need to pay a bail bond agent to post a cash bond because you or another person can post a cash bond. 

Can I change my mind after I post a cash bond for someone?  You may have the defendant turn himself or herself in to jail any time before the defendant misses a court date. If the defendant is returned to the jail, you will need to file the required paperwork with the court.  It will take about two weeks for the money to be mailed to you.


If I post a cash bond, will I get my money back?  Maybe.  If the defendant attends all court appearances and either pleads guilty or is found guilty, a cash bond can be used to pay fines and costs:

If you’re using your money to post a cash bond for the defendant, please tell the clerk or jailer your name and address.  If you are using the defendant’s own money to post the cash bond, tell the clerk or jailer that the bond money should be receipted in the defendant’s name. The bond receipt should be made for the person whose money is being used for the cash bond. If there is any money left, it will be returned to the person whose name is on the bond receipt. If the defendant attends all court appearances and the charges are dismissed or dropped, the person whose name is on the cash bond receipt will receive the refund of the cash bond.  It takes about two weeks for the refund to be mailed to the person who posted the cash bond.

What happens if the defendant misses court?  The judge will issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest and the bond will be forfeited (defaulted).

This is a complicated process and it is probably in your best interest to hire an attorney.  There are many cases on this issue as you can see here: A party seeking to set aside or remit a forfeiture bears the burden of proving that “it would be inequitable to insist upon forfeiture and that forfeiture is not required in the public interest.” State v. Childs, 208 N.J. Super 61, 64 (App. Div.),certif. Denied 104 N.J. 430 (1986); State v. Mercado, 329 N.J. Super 265, 269-270 (App. Div. 2000).

Call Attorney Alan Peyrouton for a free consultation:  201-766-4800

Would St. Patrick Have Wanted You to Drink and Drive?

St. PatrickJust about every celebration is considered a good excuse to drink, but few holidays in the US are as intimately associated with alcohol as the feast of St. Patrick. Which is fine as long as no one gets hurt. Every year, however, some revelers decide to imbibe and then get behind the wheel, with disastrous results.

It’s not at all clear St. Patrick would approve.

Not a lot is known about the 5th Century missionary. A good number of accounts begin with “legend holds that…” But while Patrick was a bishop and would have drunk wine during the Mass, his life was in general moderate and sober. The story about him lecturing an innkeeper who was stingy with whiskey is probably just that – a story.

So where did all the drinking come from? March 17th began as a religious holiday, and hard as it might be to believe, until 1961 pubs in Ireland were closed to keep a lid on festivities, which occurred during the Catholic penitential season of Lent. Yet good food and drink were allowed because it was a liturgical feast day.

As many Irish moved to America in the 19th Century, so did St Patrick’s Day, which became an occasion to celebrate Irish culture in general. Part of that culture involved Irish whiskey and beer, of course.

And that’s why March 17th brings us parades, green beer, and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” buttons. However, keep in mind that St. Patrick lived in an era before cars. While there are a number of Irish proverbs about drinking and enjoying life, none espouse endangering yourself or others by driving drunk. So if you’re going out to party, find a good friend without an ounce of Irish blood to be designated driver. Or take a taxi or rideshare service and avoid a DUI. St. Patrick would approve of that, we’re sure. Having been kidnapped by pirates at age 15, the good saint wouldn’t have wished incarceration on anyone.

So plan your St. Patrick’s Day holiday now: dig up a designated driver – or be one – and make sure your friends have a way of getting home without needing to drive. It just takes a couple of minutes to plan, and it could make a big difference in someone’s life.

We close with an Irish toast: may you live a long life full of gladness and health. Driving sober sounds like a very good start.