Traffic Safety Milestones in New Mexico

Traffic Safety Milestones in New Mexico:
A Short History of Traffic Safety Legislation and Public Policy in New

Carolyn Johnson, Training and Development Section Institute of Public
Law, University of New Mexico School of Law MSC 11 6060, 1 University of
New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

1913: First State Legislature passes anti-DWI law: Penalties: Fines
between $25 and $100; jail between 30 and 90 days.

1919: DWI penalties raised to $1000 and one year in jail. The
legislature also made it a crime for a passenger to knowingly and
willfully ride with an intoxicated driver. The passenger was subject to
the same penalties as the driver – $1000 fine and a
year in jail. (Note: this is the year prohibition was passed).

1929: Legislature repeals the statute making it unlawful to ride
with an intoxicated driver.

1967: NHTSA issues Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208,
requiring auto manufacturers to install lap and shoulder belts in
outboard positions (next to windows) and lap belts in all other
positions. This law became effective in 1968.

1969: Implied Consent Law Passed. Contained the following
presumptions: under .05 it is presumed that person is not intoxicated;
.05 to .09: no presumption is made as to intoxication; .10 and over it
is presumed that the person is intoxicated. These presumptions could be
overcome by competent evidence as to the intoxication or sobriety of
the driver. They did not apply to the criminal portion of the law, but
rather to license revocation.

1971: Implied Consent Act is taken out of the courts and made an
entirely administrative (noncriminal) proceeding.

1983: The per se standard of .10 is added to the criminal portion of
the law (66?8-102C). Under this section of the law, a person can be
convicted of DWI for driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .10
or more. New Mexico enacts child safety restraint law, which applies
only to children under 5, with secondary enforcement.

1984: The per se standard of .10 is added to the Implied Consent
Act, which now defines driving with a BAC over .10 as both a criminal
violation and an administrative (noncriminal) violation. The
administrative per se violation replaces the portion of the law which
provided that at .10 BAC or over, the driver was presumed to be
intoxicated. Under this new law, (66-8?110C) the driver with a .10 or
higher BAC has his license administratively revoked and is charged with
the crime of DWI.

1985: New Mexico’s mandatory child restraint law
amended to include children under 11, with primary enforcement.

1986: New Mexico’s mandatory adult safety belt
law goes into effect (passed in 1985) with primary enforcement.

1987: New Mexico Court of Appeals holds sobriety checkpoints
constitutional in New Mexico (City of Las Cruces v. Betancourt) as long
as certain guidelines are followed.

1988: The cars of second and third time offenders impounded for 30
and 60 days, respectively. Fourth or subsequent offenders will receive
mandatory six-month jail sentences. Mandatory 96 hours in jail for
driving with a license revoked for DWI. Law clarifies that DWI
convictions will be recorded against offenders even if their sentence
is suspended, deferred or taken under advisement.

1989: Legislature passes open container law, modifies mandatory
safety belt law to apply to pickup trucks as well as passenger cars,
and passes new law, the Local Liquor Excise Tax Act, which applies only
to McKinley County. Pursuant to the new law, McKinley County passes
local tax on alcohol of 5%, to fund drug abuse education, prevention
and treatment programs.

1990: Farmington enacts ordinance providing for mandatory three days
in jail for ALL DWI offenders. US Supreme Court approves sobriety
checkpoints, as long as police agencies comply with outlined

1992: Albuquerque passes state’s first DWI
vehicle forfeiture ordinance for driving while revoked for DWI. The
penalty is entirely civil and will eventually encompass both driving
while revoked and DWI.

1993: Legislature creates new crimes of felony DWI for a fourth or
subsequent offense and aggravated DWI for .16+, refusal or causing
bodily injury while DWI. BAC per se standard is lowered from .10 to
.08. DWI Local Grant Fund is created for communities to apply for
grants to fight DWI at local level; mandatory alcohol evaluation for
all DWI offenders and mandatory penalties for second or subsequent
offense. Most of the new laws went into effect in 1994.

1997: Legislature requires fingerprinting of all convicted DWI

1998: Service to drive-up alcohol windows is outlawed statewide by
state legislature.

1999: Limited licenses for convicted offenders become available to
offenders who install ignition interlocks on their cars (among other
requirements) — vehicles may be driven only to work or school.
Graduated driver’s license legislation passed,
pertaining to youth under age 18.

2001: Law passed requiring all adults to be in a safety belt in all
positions of a vehicle.

2002: Legislature requires ignition interlocks to be installed on
the vehicles of all convicted repeat DWI offenders and aggravated DWI
offenders. New Mexico Supreme Court holds that
Albuquerque’s DWI vehicle forfeiture ordinance does
not constitute double jeopardy.

2003: Ignition Interlock License Act passed, allowing DWI offenders
to obtain a license to drive anywhere at any time, unless they have
been convicted of vehicular homicide or great bodily injury by vehicle
while DWI. Law now allows tribal convictions to be counted as prior
offenses in New Mexico, and allows tribes to submit records to
statewide MVD/DWI database, at tribes’ option.

Dona Ana County’s vehicle forfeiture ordinance
goes into effect.

2004: Legislature raises DWI from a fourth degree felony to a third
degree felony on a sixth or subsequent offense. Makes substance abuse
counseling and treatment mandatory on every subsequent offense and for
all persons incarcerated for DWI. Law changed to include tribal
convictions as priors for purposes of sentence enhancement. Each prior
DWI conviction within the last 10 years now adds four years to a prison
sentence for vehicular homicide, (mandatory). This doubled the previous
enhancement of two years. Law changed to make it a fourth degree felony
for a person to sell, serve, give, buy, or deliver alcohol to a minor,
or assist a minor to buy, procure or be served alcohol. This includes
getting someone else to give alcohol to minors by deceptive

Las Cruces and Torrance County vehicle forfeiture ordinances go into

2005: Legislature increases period of license revocation for a
conviction for DWI, as follows: 1 year revocation on a first, 2 years
on a second, 3 years on a third and lifetime for a 4th — subject
to a five-year review in the district court. Law now requires any
convicted offender to obtain an ignition interlock license and have
interlock installed and operating on all cars driven by offender,
according to the same timetable as the license revocation. Law makes
juveniles subject to the interlock indigency fund. Adds mandatory
community service for first and third time offenders. New law requires
standardization of law enforcement arrest records and procedures.
Expands definition of ignition interlock device as one that
“prevents the operation of a motor vehicle by and
intoxicated or impaired person.â€

Updated May, 2005 Institute of Public Law, UNM School of Law Carolyn
Johnson, Training and Development Section 505/277-8790

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