New Mexico Wages Aggressive Battle Against DWI

In an article on the New York Times this week, Dan Frosch reports about New Mexico’s aggressive efforts to fight DWI in that state. In 2011, New Mexico had the eighth highest fatality rate in the United States for alcohol-related accidents. This was an improvement from 10 years earlier, when New Mexico had the fourth most fatal accidents due to alcohol involvement. North Dakota leads the U.S. in fatal accidents as a result of intoxication.

The New Mexico legislature has now introduced a bill which would prevent anyone with a DWI conviction from buying alcohol anywhere in the State, including stores, bars and restaurants. If the law is implemented, it would be ranked as one of the most restrictive DWI laws in the country. In 2005, the New Mexico legislature passed an ignition interlock law, which mandates that drivers convicted of DWI install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in their cars for at least one year. The IID prevents the vehicle from starting unless the driver has a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of almost zero (many people have a small percentage of mouth alcohol naturally or may have used an alcohol based mouthwash) so the device is generally calibrated to detect a BAC above about 0.02%; the legal limit, here in New York and in New Mexico, as in most states in the nation, is 0.08%.

If the New Mexico DWI alcohol prohibition law passed, drivers with ignition interlocks would be issued a specially devised license noting that they are prohibited from buying alcohol. The legislation received overwhelming support in the New Mexico House of Representatives, passing by a vote of 59-5. It will now be ruled on by a state senate committee. Alaska is another state that has the alcohol prohibition regulation, and a DWI offender has his or her state identification marked. The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that approximately half of U.S. states monitor those with drunken driving convictions for alcohol consumption as part of a sentence, often through the use of an ankle bracelet.

In many jurisdictions, it is difficult to enforce the IID sentence, as drivers circumvent the requirement by claiming they are not driving when they are, contending they don’t own a vehicle when they do, or requesting that someone else blow into the device to get the car to start. In New York, there are specific measures to prevent someone convicted of DWI from disregarding the IID device. For example, the driver must utilize the device to start the vehicle, and then continue to blow into the IID in regular intervals of every 15-20 minutes to keep the car running, known as “rolling retests”. If the driver fails the retests, the ignition will cut off and in some devices, the car’s horn will begin to sound or headlights flash to alert police to the fact that the driver should not be operating his or her vehicle. Further, some IID’s have video, so that a driver who attempts to have someone else blow in the device will be discovered, and if this is the case, both the sentenced driver and the accomplice will face criminal charges.

If you are charged with a crime or traffic infraction, contact the Westchester County Criminal Defense Lawyers at the White Plains, New York Law Office of Mark A. Siesel for a free consultation to discuss your case and your legal rights in detail.