- HB 349, 479 and 31 merge into One
SANTA FE – The House of Representatives has unanimously passed a comprehensive DWI Package that will help New Mexico clean up its reputation for being the worst drunk-driving state in the nation.
The vote was 63-0. In a bipartisan move, Democratic Representatives Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Bernalillo-24) and Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Los Alamos, Sandoval, Rio Arriba, & Santa Fe-43) worked with Republican Rep. Tim Lewis (R-Sandoval-60) and the House Judiciary Committee to consolidate their three separate bills into one comprehensive package.
“This is one of the most important bills we will vote on during this session,” says Speaker W. Ken Martinez (D-Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Socorro, San Juan, & Valencia-69.) “I commend our freshman and sophomore legislators for working with the Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan manner. This package provides a clear ‘carrot’ (allowing house arrest and ignition interlock) and a big ‘stick’ … increased prison time for habitual offenders.”
The House Judiciary Committee Substitute combines the following components:
House Bill 31: sponsored by Rep. Tim Lewis increases the penalty for habitual drunk drivers. It clearly expresses the legislature’s intent to have felony DWI’s treated the same as other felonies for the purpose of the Habitual Offender Act. For example, a fourth DWI will be a felony conviction and the offender will face jail time of 6-18 months. For the 5th DWI conviction there will be a 1-year enhancement; on the 6th DWI conviction there will be a 4-year enhancement; and for the 7th felony DWI conviction and beyond there will be an 8-year enhancement.
House Bill 349: sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Thomson tightens the ignition interlock requirements. This component would require a DWI offender to present proof that the ignition interlock has recorded no more than two tests at a level great than .05 during the six months prior to reinstatement of a driver’s license. The driver must also present proof of at least one interlock test during each of the 24 weeks during the 6 months (of driving with an ignition interlock) to be eligible for a “clean” license.
House Bill 479: sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard allows judges to order DWI offenders to house arrest and undergo home breathalyzer tests twice a day. The offender would be required to pay costs associated with the home breathalyzer device. Fees collected from the interlock device fund can be used to cover part of the costs of leasing home breathalyzer devices for indigent people.
Rep. Thomson praised the unanimous vote by saying, “This is a great step forward in making New Mexico’s roads safer for all. These measures have been long overdue. I would like to thank my co-sponsors, Rep. Garcia Richard and Rep. Lewis.”
“I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work on bi-partisan legislation with two freshman members,” adds Rep. Lewis. “New Mexico has a DWI problem. There is no question about that, and anything we can do to help deter repeat offenders and improve public safety is a step forward.”
Rep. Garcia Richards emphasized, “This was a collaborative effort to make a strong statement about drunk driving – it is no longer acceptable in New Mexico.”
The House Judiciary Committee Substitute for HB 349, 479, and 31 now heads to the Senate.