Among three bills are provisions that would increase minimum jail sentences for repeat DWI violations and trigger other felony sanctions against drunken drivers under existing New Mexico laws for habitual criminal offenders.
One measure proposes increased penalties for those who lend their car to someone whose license has been revoked or suspended because of a prior DWI offense.
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez already has voiced support for similar provisions to discourage repeat DWI offenses ahead of this month’s legislative session.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said last month that the state already has some of the toughest drunken driving laws in the nation. He has accused the governor of trying to distract voters from issues of poverty.
New Mexico was a pioneering state in applying ignition interlock devices to reduce recidivism among convicted drunken drivers. It also has been criticized by the Governors Highway Safety Association as one of a handful of states without a repeat offender law that calls for federally mandated minimum penalties for individuals convicted of a second or subsequent impaired driving offense.
In New Mexico, it is illegal to drive with a breath or blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
People convicted of a first offense in the state face fines, court costs and possible jail time. Offenders also have to undergo treatment and install ignition interlock devices. Subsequent DWI convictions result in increased fines, more jail time and a longer license revocation.
Two of the proposals introduced Monday were designed to compound punishments incrementally against drivers who surpass three violations.
A bill introduced by Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, and Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, would add an additional year of jail time for fourth or subsequent DWI offenses.
An eighth DWI conviction would make the offender eligible for a 12-year sentence under the proposal.
Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, wants to expand New Mexico’s habitual offender law to include DWI felonies.
Dines said a fourth DWI conviction currently qualifies as a felony but does not count toward tougher sentencing as some other felonies do when committed in succession.
“We have a lot of folks who are still driving who have had multiple DWI convictions,” he said. “I just think the principle needs to be established.”