DWI Quotas for Albuquerque Police Lead to Below the Limits Arrests

A recent article in the Albuquerque Journal points out a DWI Quota for police officers on the Albuquerque Police Department‘s DWI Unit. DWI officers are required to make 2 DWI/DUI arrests each shift.

This quota may be contributing to the rash of below the limits DWI arrests in Albuquerque.

Most citizens believe that the standard for DWI is a breath alcohol level of .08 or higher. This belief is rightfully justified as .08 has traditionally been the standard for a DWI arrest. In fact, many well-intentioned citizens have bought their own breath alcohol measurement devices so that they can insure that they don‘t violate the law.

There is a disturbing trend in Albuquerque where drivers are being arrested for breath alcohol levels well below the .08 limit. There are cases of drivers be arrested at .03 and .04. The law actually allows this through the extremely vague alternative standard to the .08 standard of “impaired to the slightest degree.” NMSA 66-8-102(A) states: “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor to drive a vehicle within this state.”

The New Mexico Court of Appeals has reaffirmed this loose and vague standard in State v. Pickett. The Court in Pickett cited approvingly the language in State v. Sanchez stated that a driver is under the influence of alcohol “if as a result of drinking [the driver ] was less able to the slightest degree…to handle a vehicle…”

The court coined this standard as “impaired to the slightest degree” as established in State v. Neal.

This trend seemed driven by an overzealous DWI policy where drivers were arrested for the mere presence of alcohol in their system. It seemed also to be related to the desire for Albuquerque DWI Unit Officers to maximize their over-time hours and over-time pay.

The DWI quota is a new and even more disturbing incentive for illegitimate DWI/DUI arrests.

Clearly, the Albuquerque DWI Unit officers are pressured into making illegitimate arrests as a result of the quota. Their job performance and continued assignment to the Albuquerque DWI Unit depend on meeting these quotas.

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