'Year after year, I call on the Legislature to get tough on DWI, but they refuse to act' - Gov. Susana Martinez
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
Saying that DWI is totally preventable, Gov. Susana Martinez on Monday announced a four-pronged effort to stop drunken driving on New Mexico’s highways.
The effort involves saturation patrols on two sections of highways with the highest DWI death rates, issuing bench warrants for DWI offenders who have skipped out on their parole or probation, arresting the most notorious DWI offenders who have avoided justice, and a program to have citizens monitor courtrooms and report on how DWI cases are handled by judges and prosecutors.
“Year after year, I call on the Legislature to get tough on DWI, but they refuse to act,” Martinez said at a news conference in Albuquerque. “If they won’t act, we will. Today’s initiative will increase law enforcement activity, target the worst of the worst and hold the justice system accountable for failing to punish DWI criminals.”
The need to stop DWI is urgent, Martinez said, explaining that of the 237 car crash deaths on New Mexico’s roads in 2014, 98, or 41 percent of them involved alcohol.
“This is unacceptable and something that is 100 percent preventable,” Martinez said.
The four elements to Martinez’s anti-DWI program are:
Operation STOPthePAIN will put more state police officers on the deadliest stretches of highways in the state: U.S. 64 between Bloomfield and Farmington, and I-40 between Gallup and Grants. “Remarkable, 85 people died in traffic fatalities in just these two counties (San Juan and McKinley) alone in 2014, many of them alcohol-related,” Martinez said. As part of this program, the state police will send Special Investigations Unit officers to the areas to track where every person arrested for DWI got their alcohol.
DWI bench warrant roundups will have officers around the state do periodic bench warrant roundups to find DWI offenders who have failed to show up for court. The roundups will continue throughout next year.
A crackdown on repeat offender absconders will task cops with locating and arresting repeat DWI offenders who have violated their parole or probation and who are currently fugitives.
A court monitoring program that will have citizens sit in courtrooms throughout the state to watch how DWI cases are handled. The New Mexico Department of Transportation has issued a request for proposals for the program. The monitors will file reports that will let the public know how judges and prosecutors are dealing with DWI cases.
“New Mexico’s families deserve to be safe from drunk drivers, and it is our duty to crack down on repeat offenders and prevent tragedies from happening on our roadways,” Martinez said. “Even one death is too many because this is 100 percent preventable.”
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