New Mexico mandates ignition interlocks for all DWI offenders

| 4/15/2005

Bad breath might not be enough to stop a moving vehicle, but for DWI offenders in New Mexico, alcohol on their breath could keep their vehicles from starting.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law on April 6 a bill that requires all DWI offenders to have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles. The new law makes New Mexico the first state in the union to require interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers, including first offenders.

According to The Associated Press, New Mexico had the sixth highest rate in the nation for alcohol-related highway deaths in 2003. Forty-five percent of the state’s 439 traffic deaths in 2003 were alcohol related, according to MADD’s Web site. Currently, the state prosecutes about 13,000 DWI cases a year, The Associated Press reported.

“In the past two years, we’ve made significant progress to put real teeth in our DWI laws,” Richardson said in a press release. “We can’t just rely on tougher laws and the threat of longer prison sentences for repeat offenders. We have to take advantage of technology to prevent people from getting behind the wheel when they’ve had too much to drink.”

The new law would require interlocks for all offenders whose blood alcohol content is greater than 0.025. For a first offense, drivers would have to use the device for a year; for a second offense, two years; for a third offense, three years; and lifetime use for a fourth offense.

The governor also signed into law Senate Bill 109, which requires interlock devices, community service and longer license suspensions for juveniles with DWI convictions.

– By Aaron Ladage, Land Line staff