Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard
SANTA FE – Efforts to stop drunk driving and close loopholes in the current DWI laws secured a major victory this evening.
The New Mexico House voted unanimously (61-0) to pass Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard’s, D-Los Alamos, DWI Interlock Removal Requirements legislation, House Bill 86.
“For three sessions, I have fought alongside of DWI prevention advocates to continue to raise awareness and pass legislation to address shortcomings and loopholes hindering our state from fully eradicating its drunk driving problem,” Garcia Richard said. “I am excited to reintroduce this important piece of legislation, with the changes requested by the Senate in 2014, and am hopeful that this will be the year we close this loophole once and for all.”
HB 86 now heads to the Senate to begin committee hearings and final passage.
New Mexico has some of the strictest DWI laws in the nation. It was one of the first states to adopt a .08 percent blood alcohol limit and require all offenders to use breathalyzers for at least one year after they are convicted. Garcia Richard discovered that there are certain loopholes that enable serial offenders to continue to drink and drive.
For example, if a person is convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol and is sentenced to house arrest, there is no provision for equipping that person with a breathalyzer. In addition, if an offender claims they do not own a car, the judge cannot require them to use a breathalyzer.
Breathalyzers have been shown to be effective methods of preventing recidivism in convicted DWI drivers so it is important to close these loopholes.
Since 2013, Garcia Richard has introduced legislation to address this issue by allowing judges to order the offender to obtain and use a home breathalyzer device that identifies the person providing the sample. This bill has been reviewed by MADD and other citizens groups and found to be an effective solution. This legislation has successfully passed the House in previous years but has stalled on the Senate floor.
House Bill 86 effectively closes the loophole and requires a home breathalyzer device and electronic monitoring for an offender under house arrest.