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Governor Susana Martinez Announces Legislative Proposals to Enact Tougher DWI Penalties

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Source: NMpolitics.net

Albuquerque, NM – Today, Governor Susana Martinez announced a series of legislative proposals to enact tougher DWI penalties and give officers the tools they need to get drunk drivers off the road. This includes previous proposals, like increasing jail or prison time for certain repeat DWI offenders; expanding habitual offender laws to include felony DWI offenses; and cracking down on those who recklessly to
ss their keys to an offender with a revoked license due to DWI.

New proposals include increasing fees and volunteer time for those convicted of their first, second, or third DWI; allowing police officers to attend DWI court hearings through phone or video; and allowing officers to obtain a search warrant to draw blood on any person suspected of DWI.

“Drunk driving continues to plague our state. If we want to end DWI, we need tougher laws, and it starts with lawmakers having the courage to pass them,” Governor Martinez said. “Not only do we need to strengthen penalties, but we also need to make it easier for officers to do their jobs and keep drunk drivers off our streets. These proposals do both.”

The Governor’s proposals include:

Increased jail or prison time for certain repeat DWI offenders – In New Mexico, repeat DWI offenders are responsible for a large percentage of alcohol-related crashes. To get more of these repeat offenders off the streets and send a louder and clearer message that drunk driving will not be tolerated in New Mexico, the Governor proposes increasing penalties for certain repeat DWI offenders as follows:

Increase maximum sentence for fourth DWI offense to 30 months, with an 18-month minimum sentence
Increase maximum sentence for fifth DWI offense to three years, with a two-year minimum sentence
Increase maximum sentence for sixth DWI offense to 42 months, with a 30-month minimum sentence
Increase maximum sentence for seventh DWI offense to four years, with a three-year minimum sentence
Allow police officers to attend DWI court hearings by videoconference – Allowing law enforcement officers to attend administrative driver’s license revocation hearings by video would help reduce scheduling conflicts, officer travel, and overtime. This would cut down on the number of cases thrown out because the arresting officer wasn’t able to attend the hearing.

Expand habitual offender laws to include felony DWI offenses – Courts have ruled that New Mexico’s habitual offender laws, which govern how previous felonies can be considered in sentencing, do not apply to felony DWI offenses. To clarify this law and ensure that habitual DWI offenders are treated the same as other felonies, the Governor proposes to expand New Mexico’s habitual offender laws to specifically include felony DWI.

Increasing penalties for anyone who commits their first, second, or third DWI – This would increase the community service time and DWI fee when an offender is charged with their first, second, or third DWI. Currently, first-time offenders are required to perform three to six days of community service along with paying a $75 fee; the second offense results in six days of community service and a $75 DWI fee; and the third offense is currently 12 days of community service and a $75 fee. By raising the fees, there will be more money to fund DWI prevention and enforcement activities in communities across the state. The Governor proposed the following increases:

Increase community service to 10 days and a $100 DWI fee for the first offense
Increase community service to 20 days and a $200 DWI fee for the second offense
Increase community service to 30 days and a $300 DWI fee for the third offense
Crack down on lending vehicles to those with revoked licenses due to DWI – Governor Martinez will again call for legislation to crack down on those who recklessly toss the keys to someone whose license has been revoked due to a DWI conviction. This proposal also calls for adding a fourth-degree felony for driving drunk with a revoked or suspended license. Right now, there is no specific law establishing a punishment for these crimes, and this proposal seeks to change that.

Allow officers to obtain a search warrant to draw blood on a person suspected of DWI – Under current law, officers are not allowed to obtain a search warrant to draw blood for a person arrested for DWI unless it is a felony DWI. This would give law enforcement with probable cause the ability to get a warrant for a blood test in any DWI arrest even if the suspect initially refuses.

In 2016, the Governor enacted legislation that increased penalties on the worst DWI offenders and substantially increased penalties for drunk drivers who kill someone on the road.

“The bottom line is we need drunk drivers off our streets,” NMDOT Secretary Tom Church said. “I’m happy to work with the Governor, lawmakers, and law enforcement to do whatever we can to keep New Mexicans from getting behind the wheel drunk. And these proposals could really make a difference.”

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