New Mexicans call for change for repeat DWI offenders
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — With authorities logging more than a dozen DWI arrests in the Albuquerque area since Christmas Eve, there are more calls for New Mexico to crack down on repeat offenders.
Albuquerque television station KOB-TV reports that many of the cases over the past year involve first time offenses, but officers have seen familiar faces. One woman marked her fifth DWI offense in May after she was stopped for driving 103 mph (166 kph) on Interstate 40. A man marked his seventh DWI arrest in March when he hit a concrete pillar.
In yet another case, a 42-year-old woman was arrested for the seventh time — four of which have come within the last two years. One of the charges against her ended up being dismissed because the officer failed to appear in court.
Lindsey Valdez, regional director at Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said cases where there seem to be no consequences are the ones that send a message.
“I think it overall shows that some people really don’t find any fear in consequences if there are no consequences to driving under the influence,” she said.
How often does it happen?
“They are isolated, but they are not isolated enough,” said Ahmad Assed, a criminal defense attorney. And the issue of people falling through the cracks is not new, he said.
“We’ve been talking about this topic for decades, and quite frankly we still find ourselves almost in the same position,” said Assed.
As for the punishment when convicted, a first DWI could result in a minimum of two days behind bars. An eighth offense would be 10 years. However, Assed said that doesn’t mean people are spending all of that time in jail since mandatory sentences can be completed through an ankle bracelet program or home arrest.
That has led to calls for change from those who have lost loved ones.
“It has an effect on anybody. Growing up without a dad is hard,” said Jackie Copeline, whose father was killed by a repeat drunk driver when she was seven.
Copeline recently started a petition asking for stricter DWI enforcement and treatment.
New Mexico has among the highest death rates in the U.S. due to excessive alcohol use. State data shows that through November, nearly one-quarter of traffic fatalities in the state have involved alcohol.
New Mexico State Police announced Monday that the agency’s officers will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and patrols throughout January. Officer Ray Wilson said authorities hope to bring more awareness to the checkpoints to help change society’s attitude about drinking and driving and to reduce alcohol-related fatalities.