Governor Bill Richardson is pushing hard for ever harsher penalties for DWI offenders. Despite, or due to, the successes in bringing down alcohol-related driving fatalities, Governor Richardson does not believe the penalties are harsh enough.
The penalties in New Mexico for DW/DUII are already severe. These include mandatory driver‘s license revocation, probation and fines even for first time offenders. For repeat offenders and aggravated offenses, the consequences of DWI/DUI grow increasingly severe with increasing levels of mandatory jail time and fines.
Currently, first time simple non-aggravated DWI/DUI offenders are offered First Offender Program. Those admitted to First Offender Program do not go to jail. Instead, they are placed on probation with counseling, Victim Impact Panel, Community Service, and fines. Governor Richardson is seeking 3 days of mandatory jail time and minimum fines of $2500.00 for first offenses. Currently, the maximum fines are $500, and there is no mandatory jail time allowing judges to place first time offenders in First Offender Programs.
In addition, the Governor seeks to take away the option of community custody. Community Custody allows the offender to serve the mandatory sentence under house arrest. Community Custody saves the State millions while also allowing the offender to maintain employment and to provide for their families. The proposed new harsher sentencing would create an enormous burden on an already over burdened state budget while also devastating many offenders financially due to the loss of their employment caused by mandatory confinement.
It remains to be seen whether his proposed harsher DWI/DUI laws will go into effect. And if they do, it remains to be seen whether they will have any impact on the incidence of DWI/DUI offenses. There is no question that the laws would bring a significant burden to the State‘s overtaxed courts and overburdened budget while at the same time destroying the lives of many who but more one mistake lead productive, law-abiding lives.
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