Sierra County Criminal Court handles all criminal cases that are filed in Sierra County. See below for more information about criminal cases in Sierra County.
What happens in Sierra County at an arraignment?
In Sierra County the defendant is brought into court and informed by the judge of the charges that have been filed against them along with informing them of their rights. At this time, the defendant can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, there will be no trial and the defendant may be sentenced immediately or at a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty a trial date is set.
Mandatory Appearances in Sierra County Criminal Court
At a mandatory or required court appearance in Sierra County, the defendant must appear before the court. In the event of a “Failure to Appear” the judge may issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. Note: not all criminal hearings are mandatory, in a non-mandatory hearing an attorney may appear on your behalf without you being in court.
Sierra County Criminal Court hearings
Criminal hearings in Sierra County will take place at the Sierra County Criminal Courts. Please see here for a list of the Sierra County Criminal Court Locations.
Where can I get help for my Sierra County criminal case?
The 6th amendment of the United States Constitution provides a criminal defendant with the right to an attorney. As read in the miranda rights, this means that if a defendant cannot afford to hire a private attorney a legal attorney will be appointed to the defendant to represent him at no cost to the defendant. This is often a public defender. In addition, the court clerk for Sierra County will also be able to provide general information about a specific criminal case. The clerk can only provide information and is not an attorney so they cannot provide legal advice, only a licensed attorney can provide legal advice about what the best options for are for your particular case.
Appealing a Criminal Conviciton
A defendant may appeal a criminal conviction to an appellate court. In an appeal, the actual trial is not redone, but the appellate court hears arguments that the criminal case was not handled in a legal manner at the original criminal court. The appellate court can either uphold the conviction, or determine that errors were made and may request a retrial, a resentencing of the defendant or that the charges be dismissed.
Right to Jury Trial
For “Serious Crimes”, those that can have a potential penalty of 6 months in jail OR a minimum $500 penalty, the US Constitution guarantees a right to trial by jury. This is guaranteed by Article III of the Constitution and the 6th Amendment. The accused has the ability to waive their right to trial by jury.
In a jury trial in Sierra County, after both the prosecution and defense have rested, the judge will give instructions to the jury and jury deliberations will begin. The jury will convence in a private room to discuss and deliberate the innocence or guilt of the defendant. Once the jury arrives at a unimanous decision, they will inform the judge that they have reached a decision. They will return to the court and the verdict will be read aloud. If the jury cannot reach a unaminous decision, the jury is said to be deadlocked and a mistrial will be declared in the case.
A Plea Agreement, sometimes known as a Plea Bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant, where the defendant pleads guilty or no contest often in exchange for a lesser charge or lighter recommended sentence. A large majority of criminal cases end in a plea agreement. In Sierra County you can inform your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution to attempt to come to a plea agreement, but this is dependent upon the charge severity and also the prosecutors willingness to accept a plea deal.
If guilty, who sentences the defendant?
If the defendant is found guilty after the trial, the defendent will be sentenced. In some cases, this can occur at the same hearing the defendant is found guilty in court, in other cases a separate hearing will be required. Often the prosecution will request a particular sentence for the defendant and the judge will determine whether to enforce this sentence or impose a different sentence for the defendant.
The Right to Counsel
The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the U.s. Constitution give defendants in criminal cases the right to counsel/attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to represent you. Like other rights a defendant has, this one can be waived as well and alternatively you can choose to represent yourself.
Prosecutor in Sierra County
In Sierra County, the prosecutor is an attorney representing Sierra County. In some cases, the prosecutor may actually represent New Mexico. For the most part, the prosecutor in Sierra County has discretion to both decide whether to file charges and also negotiate a potential plea deal with the defendant.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof is always on the prosecution in a criminal trial. In other words, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. The defense must only prove that there is a reasonable possibility that the defendant did NOT commit the crime. If the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will be instructed to find the defendant not-guilty.
Sierra County Criminal Court Locations
Sierra County 7th Judicial District Court
Address: 311 North Date Street, PO Box 3009, Truth or Consequences, NM 87901
Phone: 575-894-7167 Fax: 575-894-7168
Sierra County Magistrate Court
Address: 155 West Barton Street, Truth Or Consequences, NM 87901
Phone: 575-894-3051 Fax: 575-894-0476
Elephant Butte Municipal Court
Address: 502 B Highway 295, PO Box 398, Elephant Butte, NM 87935
Phone: 575-744-4892 Fax: 575-744-4493
Truth Or Consequences Municipal Court
Address: 297 West 3rd Street, Truth Or Consequences, NM 87901
Phone: 575-894-7812 Fax: 575-894-3946
Williamsburg Municipal Court
Address: 309 Veater, PO Box 334, Williamsburg, NM 87942
Phone: 575-894-1701 Fax: 575-894-0466