The Vagaries and Absurdities of New Mexico DWI Law & Policy

In Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico, you can be charged with DWI even when you are under the legal limits. You can even be charged for DWI when you have not been driving at all.

In fact, it is illegal to sleep in your truck after drinking. Albuquerque Police will charge you with DWI and the Courts here will convict. This bizarre consequence with potentially disastrous effects is made possible by New Mexico case-law.

A case in Georgia last week found that one could not be charged with auto theft for stealing a lawnmower. Contrast that with cases around the country where people have been charged with DWI for driving a lawnmower drunk. Granted these drivers were driving on the roads, and one was actually making a beer run when he was pulled over.

However, in the zealous drive to prosecute people for DWI even when they are not driving, it is only a matter of time that the Albuquerque Police will arrest, and charge someone for mowing drunk. Perhaps, we will have a new category of MWI (Mowing While Intoxicated) to go along with SWI (Sleeping While Intoxicated).

The Georgia case piqued my interest in New Mexico‘ treatment of mowing while drunk as this seems to be a favorite past-time of many. I could find no case-law addressing the situation. However, if a man can be charged and convicted for DWI for sleeping in his truck, I would be very reluctant to have a beer before jumping on my lawnmower.

In fact, the situation posed to the New Mexico Courts by those electing to sleep off a bender in their vehicle poses far greater public safety risks than the lawnmower scenario. This suggests the very real possibility of DWI while mowing the lawn. The math speaks for itself.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration‘s DWI Training material which is the universal source of DWI training for law enforcement in the United States, for every DWI arrest there are 500 to 2000 DWI violations that go undetected. Contrast this with the odds of detection of sleeping in your vehicle in a bar or restaurant parking lot after drinking.

I have found no statistics on this but I would guess that the odds of detection are pretty high due to random patrols of such locations. Looking at the math, an odds driven person might determine that the risks are far greater sleeping off a drunk than driving home.

Thus, the math associated with this calculation would actually encourage drunk driving rather than discouraging it. This is a bizarre outcome of a flawed and overzealous DWI policy throughout New Mexico, and particularly in Albuquerque. This policy is dangerous for both the drunk driver as well as the innocents he or she may encounter on the way home. I can think of no possible victims associated with that same person sleeping off his drunk in his car.

We can only hope the Courts will address this anomaly in the near future. If they do not, it is just a matter of time before an innocent victim is badly injured or killed as a result of this bizarre law and policy.

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