State Rep. Louis' arrest on drunken driving charges rattles Roundhouse - Albuquerque Journal

State Rep. Louis’ arrest on drunken driving charges rattles Roundhouse

Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, sits in the Speaker’s chair during American Indian Day at the NM State Legislature at the Roundhouse, Friday, February 4, 2022. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – State Rep. Georgene Louis was booked into a Santa Fe jail early Monday morning on charges of aggravated drunken driving after being pulled over for speeding late Sunday evening.

Booking mug for Rep. Georgene Louis on Monday, February 14, 2022. (SF County)

The arrest of the Albuquerque Democrat, the latest in a string of DWI cases involving New Mexico legislators, prompted swift calls for Louis to resign and came with just a few days left in this year’s 30-day session.

Louis, an attorney and five-term lawmaker, was pulled over by a Santa Fe police officer who clocked her driving her car 17 miles per hour over the speed limit on St. Francis Drive, according to a criminal complaint filed in Santa Fe Municipal Court.

The officer reported that Louis said she had consumed two or three vodka drinks and, when asked why she was driving so fast, responded “that she just wanted to get home.”

There was also a strong odor of alcoholic beverages coming from inside the car and the officer noted that Louis’ eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the criminal complaint.

The legislator allegedly acknowledged her vehicle registration certificate had expired and was not able to provide valid proof of insurance.

After taking field sobriety tests in which she swayed and struggled to keep her balance, according to the officer, Louis was arrested at 11:55 p.m. and agreed to a breathalyzer test.

Two tests revealed a 0.17% blood alcohol content – more than twice New Mexico’s legal limit, according to the complaint.

Louis was then booked at the Santa Fe County Adult Detention Facility at 5:46 a.m.

Under state law, aggravated drunken driving charges can be filed when a suspects’s blood alcohol content is 0.16% or higher, in cases where someone is injured or when an individual refuses to submit to testing.

In a statement released by her attorney, Kitren Fischer, Louis took responsibility for the incident.

“I am sorry and I deeply regret my lapse in judgment,” Louis said. “I know I let so many people down. I am accepting responsibility for my mistake.”

“I am prioritizing my health, and I will work hard to regain the trust of my constituents, my community and my family,” she added.

Roundhouse reacts

The arrest reverberated quickly at the Roundhouse, where Louis serves as chairwoman of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

The committee had been scheduled to meet Monday with just three-plus days left in this year’s 30-day legislative session, but the committee hearing was canceled without explanation.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said during Monday’s floor session the committee would meet Tuesday, but did not provide specifics on the situation.

“Georgene is a dear friend and a truly excellent legislator,” Egolf said in a statement.

“Until I have more information about the facts of this incident or the opportunity to speak to her directly, I cannot make any further comment.”

Top House Democrats also said in a subsequent statement it was “important that we let the judicial process take its course.” They also said the Legislature would continue its work up until the session ends Thursday at noon.

“As friends and colleagues, we are equally concerned about the wellbeing of Representative Louis and her family in this difficult time,” said the statement from Egolf, House Majority Leader Javier Martinez of Albuquerque, House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces and caucus chairwoman Wonda Johnson of Church Rock.

In contrast, New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce called on Louis to “do the right thing” and resign.

“She faces criminal charges, and this kind of behavior does not coincide with that of a responsible public servant,” Pearce said.

“Rep. Louis has violated the public trust, let down her constituents and endangered the lives of innocents.”

Louis, an enrolled member of Acoma Pueblo, unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination last year for an open Albuquerque-area congressional seat.

When she announced her campaign, she said her experiences as a teen mom who worked her way through college and law school as a single parent would make her a natural successor to former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who was appointed as U.S. interior secretary.

Latest allegation of drunken driving

Meanwhile, the charges against Louis mark the latest drunken driving allegations to hit the Roundhouse.

Most recently, former state Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, was sentenced to five days in jail in 2020 after being convicted of drunken driving charges stemming from a 2019 incident in which he plowed into another vehicle that had stopped at a red light in Española, injuring both occupants of the other vehicle.

Before that, ex-Rep. Monica Youngblood, an Albuquerque Republican, was convicted of aggravated drunken driving in 2018 after being arrested at a sobriety checkpoint. She was sentenced to one day in jail.

Both Martinez and Youngblood declined to resign from office, and both lost their reelection campaigns, Youngblood in 2018 and Martinez in 2020.

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