Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DWI Prosecutions by the AG's Office...Is There a Message Here?

The long holiday weekend is over and the work-world gets back to normal, kids are out of school, weather is warming up, and we have given due recognition to our men and women in the armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  But for some New Mexico families, all they will remember is that they lost loved ones to drunk drivers over the three day weekend.

Last week we announced that the NM Supreme Court refused to further delay the trial of a former state police officer involved in a drunk driving death.  The defendant was a passenger in the car that struck and killed a pedestrian, the driver was convicted and sent to prison. Attorney General King's special DWI prosecutor is handling the former officer's trial on behalf of the State.

I was asked by reporters whether this signals that the AG's Office is going to begin targeting passengers in vehicles whose drivers are busted for DWI.  The short answer is no.  However, under the theory of accomplice liability, circumstances could again dictate that such a prosecution is necessary.  I tried to explain to reporters that there is no template for DWI prosecutions; that each case is evaluated on its own set of facts.  "DWI-passenger-prosecutions" are not commonplace in New Mexico so I was asked why other prosecutors around the state have not been doing so.  That is a good question, but I can only speak for our office.

Another question posed to me was whether the AGO was targeting law enforcement officers involved in drunk driving cases.  Again, no.  But we will not look the other way either.  The Attorney General, like most people, believes law enforcement should be held to a higher standard.  No one likes to see police officers involved in DWI or any other crimes but as this Attorney General has said on many occasions, he will follow the evidence no matter where it leads or to whom.

To answer my own question as to whether there is a message in the Attorney General's Office prosecution of DWI cases of all types: yes, and the message is that too many people have already died because of drunk drivers.

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