2020 New Mexico Statutes
Chapter 12 - Miscellaneous Public Affairs Matters
Article 2A - Uniform Statute and Rule Construction Act
Section 12-2A-2 - Common and technical usage.

Universal Citation: NM Stat § 12-2A-2 (2020)

Unless a word or phrase is defined in the statute or rule being construed, its meaning is determined by its context, the rules of grammar and common usage. A word or phrase that has acquired a technical or particular meaning in a particular context has that meaning if it is used in that context.

History: Laws 1997, ch. 173, § 2.


Effective dates. — Laws 1997, ch. 173 § 22 made the Uniform Statute and Rule Construction Act effective July 1, 1997.

Plain meaning and legislative intent. — If the meaning of a statute is truly clear - not vague, uncertain, ambiguous, or otherwise doubtful - it is of course the responsibility of the judiciary to apply the statute as written and not to second-guess the legislature's selection from among competing policies or adoption of one of perhaps several ways of effectuating a particular legislative objective. But courts must exercise caution in applying the plain meaning rule; its beguiling simplicity may mask a host of reasons why a statute, apparently clear and unambiguous on its face, may for one reason or another give rise to legitimate (i.e., nonfrivolous) differences of opinion concerning the statute's meaning. While - as in this case - one part of the statute may appear absolutely clear and certain to the point of mathematical precision, lurking in another part of the enactment, or even in the same section, or in the history or background of the legislation, or in an apparent conflict between the statutory wording and the overall legislative intent, there may be one or more provisions giving rise to genuine uncertainty as to what the legislature was trying to accomplish. In such a case, it is part of the essence of judicial responsibility to search for and effectuate the legislative intent - the purpose or object - underlying the statute. State ex rel. Helman v. Gallegos, 1994-NMSC-023, 117 N.M. 346, 871 P.2d 1352.

Application of plain meaning rule. — Plain meaning rule does not require a mechanical, literal interpretation of a statute. State v. Calvert, 2003-NMCA-028, 133 N.M. 281, 62 P.3d 372, cert. denied, 133 N.M. 413, 63 P.3d 516.

When ordinary meaning given to words. — Ordinary words are given ordinary meaning where there is no evidence of legislative intent to do otherwise. State ex rel. Maloney v. Sierra, 1970-NMSC-144, 82 N.M. 125, 477 P.2d 301.

When no intent, otherwise, usual meaning given. — In construing a statute where there is no clearly expressed legislative intent requiring otherwise, the word is to be given its usual, ordinary meaning. Tafoya v. New Mexico State Police Bd., 1970-NMSC-106, 81 N.M. 710, 472 P.2d 973.

Unless different intent indicated words given ordinary meaning. — Words used in a statute are to be given their ordinary and usual meaning unless a different intent is clearly indicated. State ex rel. State Hwy. Comm'n v. Marquez, 1960-NMSC-099, 67 N.M. 353, 355 P.2d 287.

Presumption words are used in ordinary sense. — Statutory words are presumed to be used in their ordinary and usual sense. Bettini v. City of Las Cruces, 1971-NMSC-054, 82 N.M. 633, 485 P.2d 967.

Each word construed with other words to accomplish legislative purpose. — The rules of construction require each word or phrase used in a statute to be construed in connection with every other word, phrase or portion, so as to accomplish the legislative purpose. Peyton v. Nord, 1968-NMSC-027, 78 N.M. 717, 437 P.2d 716.

Technical words. — The interpretation of technical language in a statute can and should be informed by evidence concerning how those technical terms are interpreted by experts in the pertinent field. Dynacon, Inc. v. D & S Contracting, Inc., 1995-NMCA-071, 120 N.M. 170, 899 P.2d 613.

Statute given effect as written unless different intent. — A statute is to be read and given effect as written and the words used in a statute are to be given their ordinary and usual meaning unless a different intent is clearly indicated. Gonzales v. Oil, Chem. & Atomic Workers Int'l Union, 1966-NMSC-211, 77 N.M. 61, 419 P.2d 257.

Statutes must be read according to their grammatical sense. Garcia v. Schneider, Inc., 1986-NMCA-127, 105 N.M. 234, 731 P.2d 377.

Meaning of "indebtedness". — In using word "indebtedness" in statute creating and organizing new county, legislature intended what that expression meant in common parlance. Sierra County v. Dona Ana County, 1889-NMSC-017, 5 N.M. 190, 21 P. 83.

Meaning of "removed". — The removal contemplated by the word "removed" as used in N.M. Const., art. XX, § 2, refers to ouster from office of an officer under the provisions of the statute authorizing removal for misconduct. It has no reference to ouster by quo warranto proceedings, which are invoked and exercised only where a person is usurping the functions of an office to which he has no legal title. The provision clearly intended to permit the immediate removal from office of all officers who were found guilty of misconduct sufficient to oust them from office. Haymaker v. State ex rel. McCain, 1917-NMSC-005, 22 N.M. 400, 163 P. 248.

Construction of "the ballot shall contain . . .". — The words "the ballot shall contain the text of the ordinance or resolution . . .." from Section 3-14-17 NMSA 1978 direct that the ballot show the complete text of a proposed ordinance. The statute is not ambiguous, therefore construction is not called for. 1970 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 70-40.

Meaning of "vacancy". — The word "vacancy," as applied to an office, has no technical meaning. An office is vacant whenever it is unoccupied by a legally qualified incumbent who has a lawful right to continue therein until the happening of some future event. 1959 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 59-01.

A statute means what it says. Southern Union Gas Co. v. New Mexico Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 82 N.M. 405, 482 P.2d 913 (1971), overruled on other grounds, De Vargas Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Campbell, 1975-NMSC-026, 87 N.M. 469, 535 P.2d 1320.

When statute makes sense no language read into it. — An appellate court may not read into a statute language which is not there, particularly if it makes sense as written. State ex rel. Barela v. New Mexico State Bd. of Educ., 1969-NMSC-038, 80 N.M. 220, 453 P.2d 583.

When meaning plain, no construction. — When the meaning of the statute is plain, there is no room for construction. State v. Clark, 1969-NMCA-004, 80 N.M. 91, 451 P.2d 995, rev'd on other grounds, 1969-NMSC-078, 80 N.M. 340, 455 P.2d 844.

When words free from ambiguity and doubt, no interpretation. — In interpreting a statute the intent is to be first sought in the meaning of the words used, and when they are free from ambiguity and doubt and express plainly, clearly and distinctly the sense of the legislature, no other means of interpretation should be resorted to. City of Roswell v. New Mexico Water Quality Control Comm'n, 1972-NMCA-160, 84 N.M. 561, 505 P.2d 1237, cert. denied, 84 N.M. 560, 505 P.2d 1236 (1973).

When terms plain and unambiguous no room for construction. — The meaning of a statute is to be ascertained primarily from its terms, and where they are plain and unambiguous, there is no room for construction. Southern Union Gas Co. v. New Mexico Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 1971-NMSC-035, 82 N.M. 405, 482 P.2d 913, overruled on other grounds, De Vargas Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Campbell, 1975-NMSC-026, 87 N.M. 469, 535 P.2d 1320.

No room exists for construction when language of act is clear and unambiguous. Giomi v. Chase, 1942-NMSC-071, 47 N.M. 22, 132 P.2d 715.

Statute free of ambiguity given literal meaning. — Where the statute is free of ambiguity it must be given its literal meaning. Sunset Package Store, Inc. v. City of Carlsbad, 1968-NMSC-105, 79 N.M. 260, 442 P.2d 572.

No construction when words plain and unambiguous. — If words in the statute being considered are plain and unambiguous, there is no room for construction. State v. McHorse, 1973-NMCA-144, 85 N.M. 753, 517 P.2d 75.

No construction when words plain and unambiguous. — Where a statute is plain, meaningful and unambiguous, there is no room for construction. State ex rel. Barela v. New Mexico State Bd. of Educ., 1969-NMSC-038, 80 N.M. 220, 453 P.2d 583.

If language unambiguous legislative intent understood as it is written. — Legislative intent must be ascertained primarily from the language of the statute and if the language used is plain and unambiguous, the legislature must be understood as meaning what is expressly declared. 1959 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 59-63.

Unless ambiguity, no construction. — Rule of statutory construction that unless there is ambiguity in a statute, construction is uncalled for. 1959 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 59-63.

All parts of act generally considered. — Generally all parts of an act of a legislature should be considered so as to give effect to the whole statute. 1955 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 55-6247.

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