Can stricter penalties curb DWI?

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — More prison time for repeat drunk drivers is being proposed in a bill that lawmakers will soon discuss.

But one woman says there are still too many holes in the system for it to work.

An anti-DWI advocate says drivers racking up the DWI's know the system better than those working it. They know they can often cut a deal so they're not serving the punishment for what they were arrested on.

The governor's office says more than 60 percent of drunken driving deaths in New Mexico last year involved repeat offenders.

That is why Governor Susanna Martinez and Republican Representative Tim Lewis are pushing for stricter punishments.

Lewis will introduce a bill in this upcoming legislative session to raise the mandatory sentence for a fourth drunken driving charge to 30 months in prison instead of 18.

Anti-DWI advocate Linda Atkinson supports the bill, but she says it won't help until other holes in the system are filled.

“When you can't get to a conviction, you're not going to get to tougher sentencing."

Take Rebekah Glass for example: KRQE reported in February she was arrested eight times for driving drunk but was never convicted.

Or more recently, Gabriel Candelaria, who Atkinson says was also arrested eight times and convicted for DWI four times but he is only serving a punishment for a second DWI offense.

And the list goes on. Atkinson has records of people arrested up to 17 times, who aren't always fully prosecuted.

“It might happen more often unless we can do systemic changes where the resources are there for prosecution and defense, the courts actually can move these individuals through,” Atkinson says.

She says a majority of repeat offenders can make plea agreements, police officers don't always show up to court because of an overload of cases and sometimes records of past offenses aren't easily accessible.

Atkinson says it comes down to fully funding law enforcement and prosecutors so they can follow through.

“To get a repeat offender at a fourth offense when they actually have 17, I think, does not do justice to that offender or to the community,” she says.

Copyright 2014 KRQE TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
Offices & Officials

Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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