Poll shows broad support for bail reform

A public opinion poll shows 78 percent of likely New Mexico voters favor changing the state constitution to limit the use of commercial bail in deciding which defendants stay in jail before trial and which go free. A constitutional amendment on the ballot for next week’s election would allow judges to deny bail to people who are proven dangerous at a hearing. It also would forbid judges from holding non-dangerous defendants in jail pretrial solely because they cannot raise bail money. Early voting began Oct. 11.

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

Bail on NM ballot: Should money determine freedom?

 

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. This story was produced in collaboration with Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area.