In New Mexico, felony crimes are categorized into five classes: capital felonies and first degree to fourth degree felonies. A capital felony is the most serious crime in New Mexico, a first degree felony is the second most serious felony crime, and fourth degree felonies are the least serious felonies.
- Capital felonies in New Mexico are premeditated murder, felony murder (murder committed during the commission or attempted commission of a felony), aggravated criminal sexual penetration, and depraved mind murder.
- First degree felonies in New Mexico include murder, criminal sexual penetration of a minor and other serious sexual crimes, kidnapping, and robbery while armed with a deadly weapon.
- Second degree felonies include robbery, shooting at or from a motor vehicle, sexual exploitation of a minor (manufacture of child pornography), and drug trafficking (manufacturing, selling or possession with intent to sell illegal substances).
- Third degree felonies can include voluntary manslaughter, aggravated battery, some sex crimes, and aggravated stalking.
- Fourth degree felonies include involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, burglary, graffiti (property damage over $1,000), and shoplifting items with a value between $500 and $2,500.
Some crimes are classified as one level of felony for a first offense but as a more serious felony for a subsequent offense. For instance, drug trafficking is a second degree felony only for the first offense. A second or subsequent offense is a first degree felony in New Mexico.
For information on misdemeanors, see New Mexico Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Possible Punishment for Felony Crimes
The New Mexico statutes provide a maximum prison sentence and optional fine for each degree of felony. A defendant can be sentenced to a prison term between one year and that maximum. New Mexico law also requires a minimum sentence for some felonies that the court must impose.
A capital crime is punishable by life in prison or life in prison without any possibility of parole.
First degree felony
A first degree felony is punishable by up to eighteen years in prison and a fine up to $15,000 with the following exceptions:
- aggravated criminal sexual penetration – up to life in prison and a fine up to $17,500
- first degree felony resulting in the death of a child – up to life in prison and a fine up to $17,500.
Second degree felony
For a second degree felony, the court can impose up to nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine with the following exceptions:
- second degree felony resulting in death, such as second degree murder – up to fifteen years in prison and a fine up to $12,500
- second degree felony sexual offense against a child – up to fifteen years in prison and a fine up to $12,500.
Third degree felony
A court can sentence a defendant convicted of a third degree felony up to three years in prison and a fine up to $5,000 with the following exceptions:
- third degree felony resulting in death – up to six years in prison and a fine up to $5,000
- third degree felony sexual offense against a child victim – up to six years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
Fourth degree felony
A defendant convicted of a fourth degree felony in New Mexico faces up to eighteen months in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
Under New Mexico law, the judge in a felony case usually has some discretion to decide what sentence a defendant will receive. Unless the crime carries a mandatory minimum, such as one, five, ten or twenty years in prison, the judge can sentence the defendant to unsupervised or supervised probation rather than prison, even in a felony case.
Whether the judge allows a defendant in a felony case to serve part or all of his sentence on probation and the length of any prison sentence usually depends on factors such as the defendant’s criminal record, the extent of injury or damage caused, the impact of the crime on the victim or the community, and the extent to which the defendant has addressed life circumstances, such as drug addiction or gang involvement, which may have contributed to the criminal behavior.
Criminal Statute of Limitations
New Mexico law requires that a criminal prosecution begin within a certain amount of time after a crime is committed or believed to have been committed. This law is known as the criminal statute of limitations or “time limitations for commencing prosecution” and limits the length of time the state can wait before filing charges against a person. If the limitation is five years, for example, the prosecutor cannot file charges once the five years have passed because the court will be required to dismiss the case. For more information on the criminal statute of limitations in New Mexico, see New Mexico Criminal Statute of Limitations.
The Value of Good Representation
A felony conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another felony, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. After more than two felony convictions, you can also be charged with the crime of being a habitual offender. Being a convicted felon can hurt you when you are looking for a job and applying to rent a house or apartment. Convicted felons lose the right to vote, to carry firearms, and to obtain certain professional licenses.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.