SANTA FE ― Legislation to reform New Mexico’s existing “three strikes” law, also referred to as “Lilly’s Law,” passed the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee Thursday Jan. 21, on a party-line vote.
House Bill 56 is sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco. The bill would help close New Mexico’s criminal justice revolving door that has allowed dangerous career criminals out of jail free to commit additional acts of violence.
“The current statute is a three strikes law in name only,” Pacheco said. “Judges need this tool in order to reduce violent crime in the state. This bill is a piece of the puzzle to help solve the violent crime problem in New Mexico.”
To date, no violent criminals have been charged or convicted under the current law. This list of crimes making a violent convicted offender eligible for mandatory life sentencing is too narrow. Most violent criminals prosecuted under the existing law would likely already be serving life sentences before the three strikes statute would apply. As a result, prosecutors never use the current law.
The list of offenses would be expanded to qualify repeat offenders for mandatory life sentencing under the current three strikes law to include crimes in which the perpetrator commits a violent act or shows a propensity for violence. By expanding the list of crimes qualifying violent offenders for prosecution under the three strikes law, criminals who exhibit violent tendencies can be more appropriately sentenced.
The bill, also called “Lilly’s Law,” is named in honor of Lilly Garcia, a four-year-old girl who was a victim of a violent road rage incident in Albuquerque last year. The expanded law would help prevent additional tragedies resulting from the actions of callous and violent career criminals by keeping dangerous felons behind bars.
“Thank god this bill was passed by the committee. But this is just one step. I have heard that the Senate will be tough. I hope the senators will realize that changes need to be made. Times have changed, and laws need to change to make sure there are no other tragedies, so no other mother has to bury their child.” Veronica Rael-Garcia, Lilly Garcia’s mother, said.
The Courts, Corrections and Justice Interim Committee of the Legislature endorsed Pacheco’s proposal last year.