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New Mexico Criminal Law: An Overview

Every state enforces its own set of criminal laws. While some of the more serious crimes such as capital murder may receive similar penalties, California may penalize arson resulting in $5,000 of damages differently from New Mexico. It’s important to understand New Mexico’s unique take on criminal laws and sentencing if you run into trouble in the state.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about New Mexico’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a New Mexico criminal law attorney in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho or elsewhere in the state.

Crime Classifications in New Mexico

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. New Mexico has three main criminal offense classifications, in order of seriousness: felonies, misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors. 

Each major crime classification is defined by the extent of their imprisonment sentences. Crimes sentenced with:

  • More than a year of imprisonment are felonies.
  • Between six months and one year of imprisonment are misdemeanors.
  • Six months of imprisonment or less are petty misdemeanors.

Felonies are further classified into five different degrees of seriousness, including:

  • Capital felonies are the most serious crimes, including first-degree murder and aggravated criminal sexual penetration. A sentence includes life imprisonment with or without parole.
  • First-degree felonies include other murder offenses and kidnapping. A sentence includes up to 18 years of imprisonment and $17,500 in fines.
  • Second-degree felonies include robbery and the sexual exploitation of a minor. A sentence includes up to nine years of imprisonment and $12,500 in fines.
  • Third-degree felonies include aggravated battery, stalking and voluntary (“heat of passion”) manslaughter. A sentence includes up to three years of imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.
  • Fourth-degree felonies include involuntary (negligent) manslaughter and burglary. A sentence includes up to 18 months of imprisonment and $5,000 in fines.

New Mexico DWI Laws

Alcohol-impaired driving is the largest contributor to New Mexico’s traffic fatality statistics, accounting for 40 percent of all traffic fatalities. New Mexico does what it can to address the issue by ensuring that every driving while intoxicated (DWI) offense carries significant penalties.

The legal intoxication limit for adult drivers (over 21 years of age) is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08 percent. The legal limit for minor drivers (under 21 years of age) is a BAC level of 0.02 percent. You can even receive a DWI if you show signs of impaired driving without having to test for your BAC level.

The first DWI offense is a misdemeanor which could cost you:

  • Up to a $500 fine on top of mandatory fees that can add up to $217.
  • Up to 90 days in county jail.
  • Driver’s license revocation of between six months and one year.
  • Mandatory ignition interlock installed on your vehicle for one year.
  • Mandatory DWI school.
  • Mandatory alcohol evaluation.
  • Possible addiction treatment.

All of these penalties increase exponentially for each additional offense. By the fourth offense, the charge is upgraded to a fourth-degree felony.

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