SANTA FE, NM – Multiple bills championed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, partners, and elected leaders this legislative session that advance a more just and equal New Mexico were signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The new laws will help make the state’s criminal legal system more just, protect New Mexicans’ fundamental rights to body autonomy, vastly improve ballot access, and curtail police officers’ use of force.
The Right to Vote
At a time when other states across the country are working to undermine democracy, New Mexico has become a nationwide leader in voter rights with the passage of the Voting Rights Act (House Bill 4). The new law is a giant step toward a more equitable and fair voting system, eliminating many of the barriers that have historically served to disenfranchise rural, Indigenous, and formerly incarcerated voters.
Probation and Parole Reform
Legislation addressing parole will end many of New Mexico’s counterproductive and wasteful policies that keep people incarcerated when they have shown that they can safely reenter our communities.
Children are uniquely capable of redemption. With the signing of No Life without Parole for Juveniles Juvenile (Senate Bill 64), New Mexico joins 25 states, Washington D.C., and every other country in the world in banning life without parole as a sentencing option for children. The law also creates developmentally meaningful timing for parole eligibility for people already serving long adult sentences for crimes committed as children.
Geriatric Parole (SB 29) recognizes that it doesn’t make New Mexicans safer to incarcerate elderly and medically fragile prisoners who pose little public safety threat. The new law will make many of them eligible for parole.
Right to Body Autonomy
While many of the state’s neighbors are attacking fundamental and personal health decisions, New Mexico passed monumental protections for reproductive and gender-affirming health care.
Reproductive Health Provider Protections (SB 13) ensures the freedom of individuals to make decisions about their own bodies and their futures with dignity and without undue political interference and dangerous overreach across state lines. Under the new law, New Mexico government cannot aid another state’s investigation into people’s reproductive or gender-affirming care, nor can the state allow patients to suffer professional discipline or adverse action by a professional licensing body.
The Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Health Care Freedom Act (HB 7) ensures that every New Mexican has the freedom and dignity to make their own decisions about reproductive health care and gender-affirming care in every corner of our state. The new law prohibits public bodies, including local municipalities, from denying, restricting, or discriminating against an individual’s right to use or refuse reproductive or gender-affirming care.
The Human Rights Act Modernization (HB 207) ensures that New Mexico will no longer allow tax-payer-funded discrimination by ensuring all public entities must adhere to the state’s Human Rights Act. It also updates and expands definitions of sex, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The signing of this law and others puts New Mexico at the forefront of protecting LGBTQ people’s rights.
Court Fines and Fees and Debt-Based Driver’s License Suspension
No one should land in jail or lose their driver’s license because they cannot pay court fees, fines, and other costs. Two bills signed into law address these issues. Fee Elimination (HB 139) eliminates fees within the criminal legal system so people are not incarcerated simply because they cannot afford exorbitant fees. Driver’s License Suspension (SB 47) limits the suspension of driver’s licenses when people can’t afford a fine or fee.
Police Use of Force Standards
Every year, New Mexico has one of the highest—if not the highest—rates of killings by police in the country. After a more comprehensive bill addressing excessive police use of force died, the Law Enforcement Telecoms Act (SB 19) was passed and signed by the governor. The new law requires officers to intervene if another officer is using excessive force and is a good starting place to build solid police reforms.