DUI & DWI in New Mexico
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Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is the act of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Unfortunately, New Mexico has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related crash fatalities a year compared with other states. The rates have declined in the past decade, since New Mexico committed to put a stop to drunk driving through education―and strong enforcement.
New Mexico police are out in force trying to protect citizens from those who may harm them by driving while intoxicated. Methods used by the police to recognize and apprehend drunk drivers include:
- Standardized field sobriety tests
- Sobriety checkpoints
- Group patrols
- Breath alcohol test (BAT) mobiles
- Mobile video surveillance
In New Mexico, it is illegal for someone who is 21 or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. Anyone who breaks this law can be convicted of a DWI.
Those who are found to have a BAC over the legal limit will have their license revoked on the spot by the arresting officer. A driver who refuses to take a breath test administered by a police officer will have his or her license revoked, as well.
It is also possible to be arrested for a DWI with a lower BAC than the legal limit, if it is clear to the arresting officer that the person is too impaired to drive. Those who consider themselves to be "lightweights" when it comes to alcohol consumption should take heed, as only one drink could be enough to get a DWI.
Medication can also be the culprit in an accident or arrest. Whether it is an over-the-counter product or a prescribed medication that makes the driver drowsy, it shouldn't be taken before driving a car. Warnings on medications are there for your safety. If a driver becomes drowsy or lightheaded from an over-the-counter cold medication and then gets behind the wheel, they are risking a DWI conviction.
Because of the high number of DWI cases in New Mexico each year (and the number of repeat offenders), the legal system is really cracking down on this crime. In fact, the criminal penalties for a DWI are more severe in New Mexico than in most other states. There are now many mandatory penalties for a DWI, which means a judge can't be lenient and let you off easy. These mandatory penalties include:
- Imprisonment (up to two years)
- Fines (up to $5,000)
- Community service (up to 96 hours)
- License reinstatement fee ($100)
- Psychological evaluation
- Driver education courses
- Ignition interlock devices (these are required for everyone convicted of DWI, even the first time)
- Court fees
Repeat offenders, especially, are receiving maximum penalties, as they are the most likely to break this law again. A fourth DWI conviction is now a felony in the state of New Mexico. Because the consequences for conviction are so harsh, many people seek the counsel of a DWI attorney after they are arrested on suspicion of driving while impaired.
For a comprehensive breakdown of all the minimum and maximum penalties and fees for a DWI conviction, whether it's your first or your seventh (or worse, you've been found guilty of vehicular homicide), see the state's High Cost of DWI brochure (scroll down to see the penalties for each offense). This publication also details how long your license will be suspended or revoked. Considering that it takes a whole page to outline the penalties for just the first DWI offense, that should give an indication of how serious New Mexico takes this crime.
Another state-published pamphlet, DWI Flow in New Mexico, is a flow chart illustrating the steps anyone charged with DWI must take through the legal system. It's convoluted, time-consuming, and downright intimidating. No wonder even those in law enforcement recommend that DWI arrestees consult an attorney.
In an effort to deter citizens from driving drunk, New Mexico has launched a huge media campaign to inform people of the dangers. From billboards to commercials, the public is being saturated with anti-DWI messages. Many of these public service messages are targeted at young drivers.
Each year, hundreds of teenage drivers die from alcohol-related accidents in New Mexico. It is now mandatory for any new driver between the ages of 18 and 24 to complete a DWI-awareness program when applying for a license. This program is entitled None for the Road and is a self-taught course that the driver completes at home. Special emphasis is also being put on DWI awareness during driver education courses for all ages.
Article 8 of Chapter 66 of the state statutes outlines New Mexico's DWI laws, arrest and court procedures, and penalties in legalese. If you'd like to educate yourself about the state's laws about this issue, this is a good place to start.
We've rounded up the links used in this article, and some extras, for easy reference to information about New Mexico's DWI laws and how they affect you.
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