The New Mexico Constitution guarantees that felony charges shall not be brought against a person prior to either a grand jury indictment or a preliminary hearing finding of probable cause. But in March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico courts were forced to halt the use of grand jury proceedings. As a result, all felony charges brought for the remainder of the year 2020 were vetted through preliminary hearings. Moreover, New Mexico is a unique jurisdiction because it applies the Rules of Evidence in full strength at preliminary hearings. This Comment makes a case for the continued expansion in the use of preliminary hearings even as COVID-19 restrictions ease and grand juries become available again. Acknowledging the necessity to balance the use of preliminary hearings with grand jury proceedings this comment (1) illustrates the contours of both the grand jury and preliminary hearing rights in New Mexico; (2) describes the ongoing tension within the Second Judicial District regarding preliminary hearings and grand juries; (3) surveys states that either prioritize or offer prosecutors the discretion to use preliminary hearings and examines how these states treat the Rules of Evidence; (4) analyzes how the practical benefits of preliminary hearings are viable for both the prosecution and defendants; and (5) addresses how preliminary hearings balance the policy interests of the state with the rights of defendants.
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Better Balance: Why the Second Judicial District in New Mexico Should Prioritize Use of Preliminary Hearings,
N.M. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/nmlr/vol51/iss2/10