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By Nina Salazar Pre-Prosecution Diversion Program Specialist

The 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Administers a Pre-Prosecution Diversion Program (PPD) designed to help first time non-violent offenders stay out of the prison system, make right on their mistakes, and preserve their futures by keeping their records free of felony convictions.

Pre-Prosecution diversion programs identify defendants who are not likely to commit additional offenses and allow them to avoid being formally charged with a criminal offense. A diversion program also allows the conservation of community and criminal justice resources while allowing a person who is unlikely to reoffend to avoid having a formal criminal record.

The 13th Judicial District Attorney’s office has PPD clients in all three counties in our district. While there is a basic criterion required for acceptance into the program, our program customizes the contractual agreement between the defendant and the program to best serve the individual and achieve the best outcome. The time that a defendant is in the program varies from six to 24 months and focuses on personal accountability and achievement. Defendants (“Clients”) who have never graduated from high school must complete their GED or HISET, clients who have addiction issues are required at a minimum to be in outpatient treatment and counseling, everyone is required to give back to the community and either be in school or working full time or some combination of the two.

For some people, the Pre-Prosecution Diversion Program is about statutes and numbers. However, it is the philosophy of the 13th District Attorney’s Office that the program is about people with a belief that an individual who makes a mistake need not be defined by that mistake for the rest of their lives. Every person who enters our program requires something different to get through, contribute and graduate from the program.

B.V. was charged with possession of a controlled substance. She was addicted to prescription drugs when she entered the program. The first thing was to help her get into a treatment program. B.V. was already attending school full-time. She completed her schooling, with a degree in plumbing. However, she had a tough time getting a professional plumbing agency to give her a chance. In my role as the PPD Administrator, I called the Union of Plumbers and they were able to help her get a job at Intel, where she is now completing her plumbing apprenticeship to become a licensed plumber.

L.P. was homeless and arrested for Possession of Controlled Substance. He was in our program for a year, but his contract was extended an extra three months so that he could complete his counseling. It took time and encouragement for him to understand and believe that he could change and be successful. While in the program L.P. got treatment for addiction, secured a job, and is no longer living on streets. He also worked hard to fix his relationship with his children.

One young woman M.S. arrived in the program with a history of petty misdemeanors and a drug problem. At her first meeting M.S. was clearly beaten down. She had lost custody of her child and felt hopeless. It was obvious she was still using. But she had a glint in her eye that indicated she may succeed. Originally scheduled for a year in the program, her contract was extended to 18 months. There were times when it felt as if I was pulling her through the program. The first order of business was to get her into a Suboxone program and help her into a stable living situation to begin to piece her life back together. She thrived with specific assignments like getting a current driver’s license. There were successes and failures along the way, but step by step the balance shifted toward more successes than failures. And with each success M.S. became more confident in herself. She obtained a job, went back to school to become a cosmetologist all while staying in treatment and off heroin. Eventually she also regained custody of her daughter.

When the time came to complete the program, she did not want to graduate because she was afraid, she would lose everything she had gained. She did not trust herself to continue to make good decisions. We wrote down every good decision she had made in the prior 18 months, and then she wrote down every good thing that had come of her decisions. When asked what the most important thing was to come out of the program for her, she looked down at her list, then looked up and said, “I learned I can be good.”

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By Robyn Simms, Deputy District Attorney for the Valencia County Office.


It is not a secret that crime is a pervasive problem in Valencia County. When a defendant is released from custody after arrest, people often believe that somehow law enforcement has failed to protect the community and/or the District Attorney has failed to successfully argue for a defendant’s incarceration prior to trial. While we do not claim to be infallible the truth of the matter is that the prosecution team is restricted by a 2016 change in the New Mexico Law which makes it much more difficult for prosecutors to argue to keep offenders in custody pending trial. This leaves law enforcement, and community members who have been impacted by the defendant’s actions, frustrated, disappointed and often angry.

The law reads, “Bail may be denied by a court of record pending trial for a defendant charged with a felony if the prosecuting authority requests a hearing and proves by clear and convincing evidence that no release conditions will reasonably protect the safety of any other person or the community.” The result of this law is that very few defendants are kept in custody pending trial. As prosecutors we are bound to work within the confines of the law which sometimes does not support our intended outcome.

The release of a defendant after arrest does not stop the prosecution. Pre-trial release decisions are only the beginning of the District Attorney’s Office pursuit of justice. Repeat offenders are released by the Judge under a set of stringent conditions. Similarly, the release of a defendant does not mean that law enforcement did not do a good job with the arrest, charging and investigation, nor does the defendant’s release pending trial reflect an animus or bias from the judge.

When recommending incarceration for a defendant prior to trial, the prosecution team initiates formal proceedings when clear and convincing evidence shows that no other release conditions can protect the safety of our community. The prosecution teams’ recommendation balanced with the defendant’s presumption of innocence. Within this delicate balancing act the Judge, and prosecutors make decisions which take into consideration the safety of the community coupled with the constitutional guidelines rooted in our criminal justice system.

It is a misconception that pretrial incarceration is the only deterrent to future criminal misconduct. Valencia County has effective resources such as Pre-Trial Services and in some instances law enforcement to monitor defendants who have been released pending trial but, it is the responsibility of the defendant to comply with their conditions of release and to either abide by the law or not abide by the law. Conditions of release do not give a defendant free reign within the community while awaiting trial. Should a defendant violate their conditions of release and/or commit a crime the prosecutors receive notice and then request revocation of release pending trial.

Though it appears that the law unfairly benefits the defendant at the expense of the community this is not the case. Every member of the criminal justice system, from the judge to the defense, to prosecutors and law enforcement work diligently to honor the law and constitution regardless of any individual opinions regarding the status of the law.

Without hesitation I know that the best law enforcement officers I have ever worked with protect our community. We work collaboratively with law enforcement who day in, and day out strive to effectively investigate crime and protect the community. All of us are equally bound to the laws we are bound to enforce. Every decision we make as integral participants within the criminal justice system, reflects our understanding of the law and our underlying commitment to both Federal and State constitutions.

Under the leadership of District Attorney Barbara Romo, and with the commitment of my prosecution team we endeavor every day to build upon what is already a great working relationship with each law enforcement agency in our District - Belen, Los Lunas, Bosque Farms and Isleta Police Departments, Valencia County Sheriff’s Department and New Mexico State Police. Their continued commitment to public safety and their tireless efforts dedicated to the protection of this community do not go unnoticed.

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By Barbara Romo, District Attorney

The District Attorney’s Office is tasked with prosecuting cases and seeking justice through a fair and transparent judicial process. This encompasses a strong commitment not only to a fair judicial process but also the creation and practice of principled policies for the people of the 13th Judicial District. Our consistent aim in the pursuit of justice is advocacy for, and commitment to, victims of crime, their rights and access to a variety of comprehensive services.

What sometimes gets lost is the understanding that while the DA’s office is entirely committed to protecting a victim’s constitutional rights, we also have to prove the crime in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt while protecting both the rights of the victim and the rights of the defendant. Protecting the rights of the defendant is part of our duty and as ministers of justice, and also insures a conviction is immune to reversal if the case is appealed. Sometimes this requires us to make difficult choices along the way.

The cooperation of a victim throughout the court process often is key to a successful unsuccessful outcome. Rights of victims include the right to be informed, the right not to be harassed, the right to be present and the right to be consulted. Though a victim has these rights it is not always the easiest process for a victim to take advantage of them out of fear, residual trauma and other reasons. This is where our Victim Assistance staff comes in. Our staff assists victims with crisis intervention, counseling referrals, obtaining restitution and emergency assistance, case status notification, and escorts them to every court appearance.

In the last year, our victim assistance staff across the district has helped almost 1500 victims of crime. It is important to understand that the number is much greater when we consider the families of victims of crime who are also greatly impacted. The victim assistance staff work to provide a secure, comfortable, supportive environment where victims, witnesses and and their families are introduced to the extensive services available to them through the District Attorney’s Office and beyond. Victims also receive information about their rights in the criminal justice system.

Carol, a survivor of attempted murder and kidnapping initially did not want to pursue the case against her perpetrator. She was understandably fearful of the process and her abuser. With the encouragement and support of the victim assistance staff throughout the process, she was ultimately able to find the strength to cooperate with our office and testify against her abuser. He was found guilty and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Carol found she was capable of more than she ever believed.

Krissy was the victim of a violent crime. As a result of the crime she became emotionally unstable, very weak and somewhat broken. She was not sure she could face her abuser in court. Her Victim Assistant supported her through the entire case process and was with her when she testified in court. She stood in court just a few feet a way from her abuser and explained how the she felt and how the abuse left her physically disabled for the rest of her life. During her testimony she broke down and cried but when she walked out of that courtroom she held her head high and expressed pride in herself and said she was leaving her fear and self-doubt behind.

In some circumstances the support for victims extends to resources beyond the DA’s office as in the cases of family members that have lost a loved one and have no idea how to pay for the funeral in order to lay them to rest. The Victim Assistance staff makes referrals to services such as the Crime Victim Reparation Committee which provides financial assistance in these instances.

The last week in April is National Crime Victims Right’s Week (April 25-30). The theme for the awareness week this year is Rights, access, equity for all victims. This theme mirrors the daily intents and goals of the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office — to reach and support victims of crime, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, and to support them through the criminal justice system which can be confusing and overwhelming, in order to seek the justice, they so deserve. For more victim services information and resources please visit

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