The press release from Richardson's office says the tougher penalties are "designed to deter first time drunk drivers." (Read the full release after the cut.)
Judges tend to dislike mandatory minimum sentences. But public sentiment—however hypocritical it may be—might support a law-and-order approach like this. It'll be interesting to see where this proposal goes.
Governor Bill Richardson Proposes Mandatory Jail Time, No Loopholes for DWI Offenders
MADD Report Shows Recommendations to Improve DWI Court Process
ALBUQUERQUE -- Governor Bill Richardson today announced a number of aggressive, new DWI proposals, including a plan to require three days of mandatory jail time and $2,500 fines for first-time DWI convictions.
Governor Richardson also wants to close loopholes that currently allow some drunk drivers to escape DWI charges and apply the charge of 2nd Degree Murder to the most heinous DWI offenses.
“We have done more than any other state to get drunk drivers of our roads and keep New Mexicans safe, which is why we've seen a 35% reduction in alcohol involved fatalities,” Governor Bill Richardson said. “But I'm the first to admit – it's not enough.”
“We have all witnessed the pain and loss of life from truly tragic, alcohol-involved crashes in recent months. We continue to hear about people racking up a dozen or more DWI charges. And we see too many people escape accountability because of loopholes in the law.”
“We are making a final, decisive push during my remaining time in office to prevent more alcohol-involved tragedies,” Governor Richardson said. “And for those who still don't get the message, they will face time in jail.”
Governor Richardson's anti-DWI initiatives, which are part of a larger public safety legislative agenda, are designed to deter first time drunk drivers and to strengthen the prosecution of those who do not get the message.
1. TOUGHER PENALTIES: Mandatory jail time and enhanced fees, which will be used to create a fund to support enhanced incarceration costs.
Ø Three days of mandatory jail time for first time offenders and require mandatory fines of $2,500. Currently, first offenders only face a fine of up to $500.
Ø Increased jail time for second offenders
Ø Third DWI conviction becomes a felony
2. CLOSE LOOPHOLES:
Ø No longer allow the pleading down of DWI offenses to a non-DWI charge for those who refuse to provide a blood or breath sample.
Ø No longer allow the use of electronic monitoring in lieu of mandatory jail time for DWI offenders.
3. SECOND DEGREE MURDER: Provide a clear definition of Second Degree Murder, and give prosecutors the ability to charge individuals with Second Degree murder in case where DWI was the cause of a fatality.
Governor Richardson's proposals come on the heels of the second DWI court monitoring report, conducted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving New Mexico. The study provides feedback to the state on the status and effectiveness of current laws and court processes and includes recommendations for improving those processes.
The report tracked data for 2,372 cases in 2008. Of those, 1,525 were adjudicated. Cases were from the six New Mexico counties with the highest rate of alcohol-related fatalities – Bernalillo, Dona Ana, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Santa Fe.
“The results of this report have helped us identify problems and develop solutions” said DWI Czar Rachel O'Connor. “We look forward to working with MADD to integrate new ideas in a way that strengthens the prosecution of DWI offenders in New Mexico”.
This study was funded through a four-year grant from the New Mexico Department of Transportation. Funding is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.