With authorities recording more than a dozen DWI arrests in the Albuquerque area since Christmas Eve, there are more calls to New Mexico to crack down on repeat offenders.
Albuquerque TV broadcaster KOB-TV reports that many of the cases last year were first-time crimes, but officials saw familiar faces. A woman marked her fifth DWI offense in May after being stopped for driving 103 mph on Interstate 40. A man marked his seventh DWI arrest in March when he hit a concrete pillar.
In another case, a 42-year-old woman was arrested for the seventh time – four of them in the past two years. One of the charges against her was dismissed because the officer did not appear in court.
Lindsey Valdez, regional director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said cases where there seems to be no consequence are the ones sending a message.
“Overall, I think it shows that some people really aren’t afraid of the consequences if driving under the influence doesn’t have any consequences,” 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 problem of people falling through the cracks isn’t new, he said.
“We’ve been talking about this for decades and, to be honest, we’re still almost in the same position,” says Assed.
As for punishment if convicted, a first DWI could result in at least two days in jail. An eighth offense would be 10 years. However, Assed said that does not mean people spend all the time in jail, as compulsory sentences can be carried out through an ankle cuff program or house arrest.
This has resulted in those who have lost loved ones calling for change.
“It affects everyone. It’s hard to grow up without a father, ”said Jackie Copeline, whose father was killed by a repeatedly drunk driver when he was 7 years old.
Copeline recently launched a petition calling for stricter enforcement and treatment of DWI.
New Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the United States from excessive alcohol consumption. State data shows that by November, almost a quarter of road deaths in the state were alcohol.