Drunk Driving Defense Laws in New Mexico
New Mexico has some of the highest rates of drunk driving and alcohol-related deaths in the country. The state has taken a strong stance against drunk driving and has one of the highest rates of DWI arrests nationally. All branches of law enforcement have banded together in an attempt to make arrests to keep impaired drivers off the road.
Each state handles DWIs differently. In some cases, your case may be different based on the county or judge assigned to your case. A knowledgeable New Mexico DWI defense attorney can help you understand your options after a New Mexico drunk driving arrest.
New Mexico Drunk Driving Laws
New Mexico law states that it is unlawful for a person under the influence of liquor to drive a vehicle. This also applies to those with a BAC of .08% or more within three hours of driving and the alcohol was consumed either before or while driving the vehicle.
This threshold is lowered to .04% for commercial drivers as well as school bus drivers. For drivers under 21 years old, this threshold is lowered even more to .02%.
This crime is an aggravated offense when the driver has a BAC of .16% or more, refuses to consent to a chemical test, or causes bodily harm as a result of driving under the influence. New Mexico has separate criminal statutes for offenses that involve killing another person or injuring a pregnant woman while driving drunk.
Implied Consent: Yes
Enhanced Penalties: BAC of .16% or more; driving under the influence with a child in the car; an accident causing serious bodily injury or death; refusal to take a chemical test; prior convictions
Typically, New Mexico considers DWI a misdemeanor offense. After a person has three DWI convictions, the fourth offense all subsequent charges are felony offenses, and the penalties increase for each additional conviction. For all DWI convictions, the offender is subject to penalties including:
- License suspension
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) upon license reinstatement
- Alcohol screening program
- Treatment program for alcohol abuse
- Driver rehabilitation program
- Community service
The maximum penalties for a DWI conviction in New Mexico depend on the number of previous convictions, any aggravating factors, or circumstances that trigger enhanced penalties by law.
The maximums for a misdemeanor offense include:
- First offense: 90 days of imprisonment; not less than 24 hours of community service; $500 fine; one-year license suspension
- Second offense: not more than 364 days imprisonment; $1,000 fine; 48 hours of community service; license revocation for two years;
- Third offense: not less than 30 consecutive days to up to 364 days imprisonment; $750 fine; three-year license revocation; not less than 96 hours of community service
- Fourth Offense: this is a fourth-degree felony offense, punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment and a potential lifetime ban on your license.
Reasons Officers May Stop You for a DWI
New Mexico law enforcement officers spend time learning the patterns and actions of drivers who might be impaired. For officers that observe signs of impairment here are a few things that could cause an officer to pull a driver over:
- Driving at night without headlights
- Driving into oncoming traffic
- Erratic or uneven braking
- Ignoring turning lanes and going straight
- Stopping in the middle of the road for no reason
- Weaving in and out of lanes
After pulling a driver over, the police officer will look for additional signs of impairment, such as an odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, the driver’s overall appearance, or slurred speech. If the police officer observes any of these signs, they may ask you to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath, or urine.
Defending DWI Charges in New Mexico
A conviction for drunk driving will have a serious impact on your life. A DWI on your driving record can be an expensive mistake. Drivers will pay substantially more for car insurance and face numerous fines and fees for conducting a substance abuse evaluation or other substance abuse programs, driving instruction classes, and drug abuse counseling before getting their license reinstated.
A local DWI defense lawyer can help you evaluate the evidence and help determine what your strongest defenses are against the charges. A legal professional understands how to challenge the legality of the officer pulling you over and can challenge the chemical test results. In some cases, your lawyer can negotiate with the judge and prosecutor to reduce the DUI penalties. You can find an experienced New Mexico DWI defense attorney before appearing at your first criminal or civil license suspension hearing.