DUI & DWI in New Mexico

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.

DWI and the Law

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 years old or older to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. Driver under 21 years old cannot drive with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. CDL driver's cannot drive with a BAC of 0.04% or over. 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.


Admin Per Se Penalties

If you are stopped and you refuse a chemical test or fail a chemical test your license will be suspended by the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). These penalties are in addition to any criminal or court charges. The MVD has the right to do this under Administrative Per Se and Implied Consent laws.

Your license will be confiscated and in 20 days your driving privileges will be revoked. You have only 10 days, after your arrest, to request a hearing if you wish to protest the suspension. The written request for a hearing must also include the $25 hearing fee or a sworn statement as to why you cannot pay the fee. Hearings are conducted within 90 days of the written request.

If you do not request a hearing ot it is not found in your favor you will be subjected to:

1st offense DWI 21 years old and over:
  • Driver's license suspended: 6 months.
1st offense DWI under 21 years old:
  • Driver's license suspended: 1 year.
2nd offense DW! all ages:
  • Driver's license suspended: 1 year.

Refusing a Chemical Test

Refusing a chemical test will result in an administrative license suspension by the Motor Vehicle Division for a mandatory period of 1 year. You will not be able to have any restricted driving privileges.

Criminal Penalties

Criminal penalties for DWI in New Mexico can be costly. Below are some of the penalties you will face if you are charged with a DWI offense.

1st offense DWI

  • Driver's license suspension: 1 year
  • Maximum Fine: $500.
  • Community Service
  • BAC test fee: $65
  • Cost of court ordered screening and treatment.

2nd and 3rd offense DWI

  • Driver's license suspension: 2 years (2nd offense) and 3 years (3rd offense).
  • Maximum Fine: $1,000.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 364 days
      Mandatory (2nd offense)
    96 hours
  • Community Service
  • BAC test fee: $65
  • Cost of court ordered screening and treatment.

4th and subsequent offenses DWI

  • Driver's license suspension: Life
  • Maximum Fine: $5,000.
  • Imprisonment: Maximum 18 months (Mandatory 6 months).
  • BAC test fee: $65
  • Cost of court ordered screening and treatment.

Aggravated DWI

Aggravated DWI carries harsher penalties, especially imprisonment times. A charge of aggravated DWI can come from an accident resulting in injury or death, refusing a chemical test and/or a BAC of 0.16% or more.

  • 1st offense Imprisonment: Additional mandatory 48 hours.
  • 2nd offense Imprisonment: Additional mandatory 96 hours.
  • 3rd offense Imprisonment: Additional mandatory 60 days.

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.

Ignition Interlock Device

If you qualify for a restricted license you will have to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on your vehicle. The courts can also require an IID on your vehicle as part of the sentencing requirement. You can only have an IID installed and monitored by an approved provider.

There is a $63 IID license fee as well as an installation fee and a monthly maintenance fee. These fees vary by provider.

More Information

For more detailed information see the state's High Cost of DWI brochure. This will 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.

We've also 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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