(Jan. 27, 2020) On January 15, 2020, the Mexican Senate announced that it will receive a proposal from the executive branch aimed at comprehensively reforming aspects of Mexico’s criminal justice system in an effort to improve its performance.
The proposal will be formally filed and text of the proposed bills released on February 1, 2020, at which time the Senate will begin its analysis of the initiatives.
In the meantime, the Senate provided limited information on a number of salient aspects of the proposed reforms, which include the following:
- The enactment of a National Criminal Code, if passed, would presumably mean the harmonizing of many sections of local criminal codes currently in force in each of the 32 Mexican states and consolidating them into one single national code, thus providing a uniform description of most crimes throughout the nation. The National Code would also provide rules of coordination between federal and state authorities in criminal proceedings.
- New rules on imprisonment, whereby first offenders would be kept separated from dangerous criminals in an effort to prevent the former from associating with the latter while in prison. First offenders could serve their terms in “open prisons.”
- Prisons would institute training programs aimed at providing inmates with useful skills in preparation for their release back into society.
- Community service would be an option as a penalty instead of fines in certain cases.
Some news organizations in Mexico reported additional information that had been leaked to the press about the proposed reform, including the possibility of admitting evidence in criminal trials obtained in violation of certain procedural rules. Reportedly, this could occur at the discretion of the presiding judge and in view of the specifics of the case in order to prevent impunity, which, according to the leaked information, occurs when otherwise credible criminal cases are dismissed on grounds pertaining to procedural matters instead of adjudicating them on their merits. Currently, the constitution prohibits the admission of illegally obtained evidence. Thus, a constitutional amendment to introduce pertinent exceptions to that prohibition would be part of the proposal. One senator has publicly expressed his opposition to such an amendment, deeming it would violate fundamental procedural rights in criminal proceedings.