Friday, April 6, 2007
Papst Lied on License Form; 'No' Box Checked For Previous DWIs
By Raam Wong
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE Repeat drunken driver Dana Papst checked the "No" box last year when asked on his New Mexico driver's license application whether he had ever been convicted of driving under the influence.
Just above the space where he indicated he would be an organ donor, Papst denied having ever been convicted of driving under the influence in New Mexico or any other jurisdiction.
He also checked "No" for a question asking whether his license had ever been suspended or revoked.
Papst had five DWI arrests in Colorado and his license had been suspended or revoked several times there.
But even if Papst had told the truth, it probably wouldn't have prevented him from getting a New Mexico license because he had a valid Colorado license at the time.
Papst applied for a New Mexico license in March 2006, about seven months before a November crash in which an intoxicated Papst drove the wrong way on Interstate 25 into a van, killing himself and five members of a Las Vegas, N.M., family.
"He was eligible because he was licensed in Colorado," Motor Vehicle Division Director Ken Ortiz said.
The application and the Colorado records were included in the final Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department report about the Nov. 11 accident, obtained by the Journal as part of a public records request.
"Had he survived, we would've looked at also charging him with falsifying a public document," said Sheriff Greg Solano.
"It's sad," said Linda Atkinson, director of the DWI Resource Center. "But I think that's the reality. People lie."
MVD uses a national computer network to check whether an applicant has a suspended license, unpaid tickets or other outstanding issues in other states before issuing a license, Ortiz said.
Because the network showed Papst had a current license, he was able to receive one in New Mexico, Ortiz said.
Papst apparently had a valid Colorado license since 1994, after racking up DWI convictions between 1982 and 1991.
Gov. Bill Richardson recently signed legislation requiring out-of-state residents convicted of DWI since June 17, 2005, who apply for a New Mexico driver's license to get an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle.
The devices prevent drivers who have been drinking from starting their vehicles.
Papst's blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit when his pickup truck collided head-on on I-25 southeast of Santa Fe with a minivan carrying the Collins-Gonzales family of Las Vegas, leaving only one survivor.
Papst, a computer network administrator at the Santa Fe Opera, was on his way home to Tesuque after arriving at the Albuquerque Sunport following a business trip.
He had been drinking on the flight into Albuquerque, according to fellow passengers, and police later determined that he purchased beer at a convenience store in Bernalillo the same evening.