New Mexico House Republicans on Monday began a major push to strengthen laws against repeat drunken-driving offenders, pre-filing three separate bills to increase penalties for those with multiple drinking-and-driving convictions.

All three of the bills coincide with various changes in DWI laws that Gov. Susana Martinez called for last month.

There is little, if any, doubt that the governor will back the bills during the upcoming legislative session and that the Republican-controlled House will pass them. But the question is whether the legislation will be able to get through the Democrat-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Michael Sanchez generally opposes bills that call for more criminal penalties.

The bills introduced Monday are:

• House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, which would add a fourth-degree felony to a drunken-driving charge when the offender is arrested while driving with a license that already had been revoked or suspended for a prior DWI offense. This bill also would add stiffer penalties for those who lend their vehicles to someone with a revoked or suspended license due to DWI.

• HB 82, sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, would add driving under the influence to the offenses covered by New Mexico’s habitual offender laws, which could add years to prison sentences received by repeat DWI offenders. A DWI offense can be considered a felony after the fourth conviction.

“It takes four DWI convictions to be a felony,” Dines said Monday. Under his bill, a drunken-driving offender who has a prior conviction could receive an additional year on his sentence for a second conviction. Two prior offenses would expose the offender to four additional years, while three or more prior convictions could mean an additional eight years in prison.



• HB 83, sponsored by Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, and Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, would add an additional year to a sentence for those convicted of four to seven drunken-driving offenses. An eighth DWI conviction would be considered a second-degree felony, which could mean a 12-year sentence. This bill would make the crimes of vehicular homicide or great bodily harm by a vehicle second-degree felonies.

In addition to the bills filed Monday, Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, recently filed HB 74, which would increase the time a DWI offender’s license would be revoked — and the time the offender would be required to use an ignition interlock device — depending on the person’s blood-alcohol content. Those with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.24 percent — three times the legal limit for alcohol — or more would be penalized. Those refusing to be tested would be presumed to have a level of 0.24 percent.

A person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered under law to be intoxicated.

Martinez’s call for tougher laws against repeat DWI offenders came shortly after an Albuquerque crash in which three people in their 20s were killed when their car was struck by driver of another car who allegedly ran a stop sign. Jacob Jaramillo, who police described as “extremely inebriated,” is charged with three counts of vehicular homicide in the Nov. 29 accident.

And last month, Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputies arrested Tim Solano, 45, on his seventh DWI charge. The Santa Fe man recently had been released from prison after serving 10 years for killing a 58-year-old woman while driving drunk.

At a news conference last month, Sanchez told reporters that New Mexico already has some of the toughest drunken-driving laws in the nation and said Martinez has failed to support more money for alcohol treatment and rehabilitation. Martinez disputed Sanchez’s statements.

Contact Steve Terrell at 986-3037 or sterrell@sfnewmexican.com. Read his blog at tinyurl.com/roundhouseroundup.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.