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Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court

Tribunal Metropolitano del Condado de Bernalillo

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Metro Court Provides Additional Avenue for Advancing Felony Cases


Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court judges began holding Preliminary Examination Hearings in January.  The move was made in an effort to provide an additional avenue for advancing felony cases in Bernalillo County. 

“As members of this community, we are all impacted by the increase in crime in recent years.  As judges, we want to afford parties every opportunity to bring and resolve cases in front of the Court,” said Metropolitan Court Chief Judge Edward L. Benavidez. 

The Metropolitan Court is a court of limited jurisdiction where misdemeanor criminal offenses, civil matters up to $10,000, and Felony First Appearances are heard.  New Mexico Supreme Court Rule 7-202 also provides Metro Court judges with the authority to hear Preliminary Examinations. 

Historically, in Bernalillo County, the District Attorney’s Office generally has brought felony cases before a grand jury in the District Court.  However, in September of last year, the judges of the Metropolitan Court began taking steps toward facilitating these additional felony hearings after the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office expressed renewed interest in pursuing formal charges through Preliminary Examinations.  Coincidentally, effective December 31, 2017, the New Mexico Supreme Court mandated that the Metropolitan Court begin scheduling these hearings.  

“Since we were already working on internal processes to take on this additional caseload, it gave us a jump on holding these hearings so quickly after the mandate,” said Chief Judge Benavidez.  “Our judges and staff have undergone training, and several staff members have been reassigned to process the extra felony case paperwork the court is anticipating.”

In fiscal year 2017, 7,033 new felony cases were filed in the Metropolitan Court.  That number is up from the 6,545 felony cases heard by the Court in fiscal year 2016. 

If probable cause is found by a Metro Court judge at a Preliminary Examination Hearing, the case will be bound over and transferred to the District Court.  If the case is pled down to a misdemeanor, the defendant will be screened to see if he or she is an appropriate candidate for one of the Court’s 11 Specialty Court Programs.  The programs use treatment, counseling, and supervision to rehabilitate defendants. 

“We are hopeful that exposing the felony population to our programs will help address some of the addiction and mental health issues in our community,” added Chief Judge Benavidez.     

The Preliminary Examinations will be heard by all 16 of Metro Court’s Criminal Division judges and will be scheduled on weekday afternoons. 

For a copy of Rule 7-202, please click here.  

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