New Mexico Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn what are stakes are for petty misdemeanor and misdemeanor convictions.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated July 19, 2023

For purposes of sentencing, New Mexico divides lower-level crimes into two categories—misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors. More serious crimes are felonies. Offenses that aren't considered crimes—such as most traffic violations—don't carry a potential jail sentence but are punished with fines.

Read on for details on New Mexico's standard sentences for misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, when stiffer sentences might apply, and what sentencing alternatives to jail are available.

Misdemeanor Classifications and Penalties in New Mexico

New Mexico sets the following standard penalties for most misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors:

In some cases, the law provides a maximum penalty that is lower than the standard penalties or imposes a mandatory minimum. For example:

  • Lower maximum penalty. The maximum sentence for a first offense of driving under the influence (DUI) is 90 days in jail and a $500 fine, but the defendant must be sentenced to at least 24 hours of community service.
  • Mandatory minimum. Possession of an illegal device for receiving unauthorized telecommunications services carries a mandatory minimum punishment of 30 days in jail, along with the standard maximum jail term for a misdemeanor.

(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-1-6, 30-3-1, 30-3-4, 30-3a-2, 30-7-4, 30-14-1, 30-16-1, 30-20-3, 30-22-1, 30-33a-4, 30-37A-1, 31-19-1, 66-8-102 (2023).)

Enhanced Penalties for Misdemeanors in New Mexico

New Mexico law treats some misdemeanors as felonies if a defendant has one or more previous convictions for the same offense. For instance:

  • Stalking is a misdemeanor for a first offense but a felony for a second or subsequent offense.
  • Battery against a member of your household (a form of domestic violence) is normally a misdemeanor but becomes a felony with a third offense.

(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-15, 30-3-17, 30-3a-3 (2023).)

How Misdemeanor Sentencing Works in New Mexico

Once convicted of a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, the judge will decide on the appropriate sentence, within the legal limits for the crime. In making sentencing decisions, judges consider various factors, such as the circumstances surrounding the crime, the defendant's background and criminal record, and potential danger to the public.

Misdemeanor Jail Time, Fines, and Probation

For misdemeanor convictions, judges can impose jail time, a fine, or both. In some cases, the judge may impose a jail sentence and then defer or suspend the sentence (in whole or in part) and place you on probation, with or without supervision. Conditions of probation may include completing community service hours, attending counseling or treatment, and paying victim restitution (N.M. Stat. §§ 31-17-1, 31-19-1, 31-20-5, 31-20-6 (2023).)

Misdemeanor Pre-Prosecution Diversion

The district attorney may offer certain defendants a chance to avoid a conviction through pre-prosecution diversion or PPD. In a diversion program, the district attorney agrees to suspend the criminal proceedings as long as the defendant complies with the program terms. To be eligible for PPD, a defendant cannot have any prior violent felony convictions. District attorneys can set additional eligibility requirements. A successful defendant will have their charges dismissed. (N.M. Stat. §§ 31-16A-1 to 31-16A-8 (2023).)

Getting Legal Help With Misdemeanor Charges

Even though misdemeanors aren't as serious as felonies, having a misdemeanor conviction on your record could still make it difficult to get a job, rent housing, obtain a professional license, or qualify for certain government benefits. It could also subject you to a stiffer sentence if you get in trouble with the law again. Anytime you're charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can evaluate your case, determine whether you have any grounds to get the charges dismissed, obtain the best possible outcome under the circumstances, and help protect your rights throughout the proceedings.

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