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The New Mexico Criminal Court System

This page provides general information about state misdemeanor and felony crimes. State courts have jurisdiction over cases that arise in New Mexico and involve the state constitution or laws. Click on the buttons to the left for more specific information about DWI/DUI, federal court or appeals.

The New Mexico local courts including municipal, magistrate and metropolitan courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors, including violations of zoning and animal control laws.   The New Mexico district court has jurisdiction over felony and juvenile crimes and hears appeals from the municipal, magistrate and metropolitan courts.

All charges in a court of law which can result in penalties such as fines or jail are criminal cases. The majority of misdemeanor and felony cases are resolved in the state courts at trial. Criminal trials have two stages. First is the presentation of facts and law to determine guilt or innocence. The second stage is sentencing.

Misdemeanors are crimes which may result in fines, jail time of one year or less and rehabilitative programs.   The penalties for misdemeanor crimes may include:

Petty misdemeanors:
  • up to 6 months in jail
  • up to a $500.00 fine
  • up to 6 months probation
  • community service
  • counseling
  • license suspension
  • driving record points assessed
  • recorded NCIC conviction
Full misdemeanor crimes
  • up to 364 days in jail
  • up to $1,000.00 fine
  • up to 1 year probation
  • community service
  • counseling
  • license suspension
  • driving record points assessed
  • recorded NCIC conviction

Examples of misdemeanor crimes include all traffic crimes, DWI, shoplifting, petty larceny, criminal damage to property, assault, battery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and negligent use of a firearm.   The case may be prosecuted by a citing officer or by the prosecuting attorney. Misdemeanor cases should be tried within 182 days from arraignment . If the trial is lost, an appeal must be submitted to district court within 15 days.

Misdemeanor convictions may have a substantial impact outside the actual penalties imposed such as loss of driving privileges, car insurance, or even a job. Also, the effects of a misdemeanor conviction may be experienced years later due to a resulting permanent NCIC (national crime statistics) record. Therefore it is imperative that you be represented by an attorney if charged with a misdemeanor. Frechette & Associates may be able to assist you in obtaining a deferral or dismissal of your case which can prevent a permanent conviction. Contact us early so we can maximize our ability to help you.

A felony is a serious criminal offense in New Mexico. Felony charges may be initially brought by a complaint filed in a magistrate court. Probable cause must be established by the prosecution before a felony case is filed in the district court.   Penalties range from one year to life in prison and capital cases may involve the death sentence. There are four degrees of felony crimes.

The degree and possible penalties for each are as follows:

4th degree felony
3rd degree felony
2nd degree felony
1st degree felony
18 months prison (range of 1 to 2 yrs depending on the case) 3 yrs prison (range of 2 to 6 yrs depending on the case) 9 yrs prison (range of 6 to 15 yrs depending on the case) Non-capital offense 18 yrs prison (range 12 yrs - life depending on the case)
Up to a $5,000 fine Up to a $5,000 fine Up to a $12,500.00 fine Up to a $17,500.00 fine
Parole programs Parole programs Parole programs Parole programs
      Capital offense - life in prison or death sentence (not for juveniles)

For all felony crimes, the jail time may be substantially increased for aggravating circumstances (use of a firearm) or habitual (repeat) offenses. Felony convictions result in loss of civil rights including voting, eligibility for public office and the right to bear arms. These convictions are a permanent criminal record. Since felony charges are serious and very complicated, early intervention can help bring positive results. Call Frechette & Associates if you are charged with a felony.

Jail and Release Procedures

When booked in jail, the individual's personal history will be reviewed to determine conditions of release.   The individual may be released on his/her own recognizance (ROR) if the crime is minor and the person has community ties such as family, a residence, and/or employment.   Most courts don't just ROR but instead require that a bond be posted as a condition of release.   A cash bond requires that a sum designated by the court be posted in cash.   A surety bond allows a bonding company to post the designated amount and the defendant, a family member, or friend must pay a percentage of the total bond to the company and give them collateral.

If there is a failure to appear for the next court setting the posted bond is forfeited.   In that event, a bond person will then seek to recover the lost money from the individual arrested and/or the person who guaranteed the bond.   Additionally, any failure to appear can result in the individual being arrested and jailed pending trial. In cases involving alcohol or drugs, judges frequently impose additional conditions of release including an electronic ankle bracelet and participation in a treatment program.

Juvenile Crime

An accused minor child (less than 18 years old) is entitled to most of the same constitutional rights as adults. These rights include the right not to incriminate oneself, the right to be represented by an attorney and the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them.   If a parent cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to the case.

There is no confidentiality privilege between children and parents and therefore a child should only talk about the case with a defense attorney. All statements a child makes to people other than their lawyer can be used against them.   Parents should demand that a defense attorney be present anytime the child is questioned.   Frechette and Associates can protect your child and give the advice needed regarding important details of the case.   Contact us to set up your free consultation.