A DWI is harmful to the drunk driver and their victims.
Drinking and driving can kill you or someone else. And if you’re charged with an alcohol-related offense, it can change your life forever. Here’s what you need to know before you drive in New Mexico.
DWI is no joke.
Specifically, there are three ways a drunk driving accident can profoundly affect your life. You could be the drunk driver who is sentenced to harsh penalties and potential civil liability, you could be the victim in an accident with a drunk driver, or you could be the family member or friend of a loved one who was injured or lost to a drunk driver’s negligence.
Regardless of where you are in this equation, none of the outcomes is a good one.
The New Mexico Motor Vehicle Department reports that about 40% of fatal crashes in the state are alcohol-related.
If you’re the victim in a drunk driving accident, you’re probably wondering what your recourse is and how you can recover compensation for your medical expenses, property loss, and related costs.
If the driver was charged with DWI, or driving while intoxicated, that charge is separate from your personal claim against them. Only the government (i.e. district attorney or equivalent) can charge someone with a crime. The driver would have criminal proceedings that can lead to penalties like jail time and fines. It does not provide you with compensation as the victim; what you get out of their charges might be a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served. However, you can file a claim against their insurance policy that would cover the costs of your injuries. If they are uninsured, underinsured or the insurance won’t pay for whatever reason, you may file a personal injury lawsuit. That is the system for claiming financial compensation in civil court. You can enter evidence of the DWI conviction to prove the defendant’s negligence, which will help to bolster your case.
New Mexico DWI
It’s illegal in New Mexico to drive a motor vehicle if your breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08% or higher. A driver who is under age 21 must have a BAC lower than .02%, and a commercial driver’s BAC must be lower than .04%.
However, even if a breath or blood test is below the legal limit, you can be convicted of DWI if it’s proven that your driving ability was impaired to even a slight degree by drugs or alcohol. A breath or blood test at or above the legal limit—or refusal to take a test—results in your losing your license for a year in most cases.
You could be charged with a DWI if you’re stopped and found to be intoxicated or impaired, either by observation of the officer or on a breath or blood test. Your penalties will depend on if you’ve had previous offenses and other factors. There are several aggravating factors that affect your charge and sentence, one of which is if your driving causes injury to another person.
New Mexico DWI penalties
|1st / 2nd / 3rd offenses: Misdemeanor
|4th or subsequent offenses: Felony
|Sixth & seventh offense
Aggravating factors can increase your sentence, even if it’s your first offense. In addition to causing bodily harm, other aggravating factors are having a BAC of .16% or higher or refusing to take a test. These violations would result in additional jail time in amounts that increase based on the number of prior offenses.
If you’re driving with a revoked license for DWI, you could receive an additional license revocation for one year, an additional seven days to one year of jail time, additional fines of $300-$1,000, and 30 days of immobilization of the vehicle.
Providing alcohol to a minor
Knowingly providing alcohol to a minor (someone under age 21), assisting a minor in purchasing alcohol, or permitting a minor to consume alcohol is a 4th-degree felony.
Implied consent act
When you drive a vehicle in the state of New Mexico, you automatically consent to a breath or blood test for alcohol consumption. Refusing to comply with a test adds additional penalties if you are convicted of a DWI-related offense.
Drunk driving presumptions
New Mexico law makes certain presumptions when someone is driving with any alcohol in their bloodstream.
BAC is lower than .04%: It is presumed that the person was not under the influence of alcohol.
At least .04% but less than .08%: There is no presumption as to whether or not the person was under the influence of alcohol unless the person is operating a commercial vehicle. The amount of alcohol shown on a breath or blood test is considered along with other evidence in establishing whether the person committed a DWI.
BAC is .08% or higher: The person is under the influence and can be convicted of a DWI offense.
What if you’re the victim of a drunk driver?
There are civil remedies to recover financially from an accident with a New Mexico drunk driver.
Your first attempt would be to make a claim to the driver’s insurance (if they have it). If they are uninsured or if your expenses total more than the policy limit, you can file a personal injury lawsuit. As noted above, this is separate from the defendant’s criminal proceedings on the DWI, though the outcome of that case could help you prove yours.
If you need to file a lawsuit, you can consult with a New Mexico accident lawyer.