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Saturday, February 1, 2003

DWI Penalties Reconsidered

By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE As many as 4,000 repeat drunken drivers could be required to attend treatment programs each year under legislation the House Judiciary Committee is considering.
    The bill also provides longer prison sentences for habitual offenders a maximum of three years, for example, for a seventh conviction, rather than the maximum 18 months under current law.
    And drunken drivers who re-offend within three years would have an extra 30 days tacked onto their sentences.
    Activists have been trying for several years to get penalties strengthened for habitual drunken drivers.
    Currently, fourth and subsequent convictions are treated the same with a maximum of 18 months in prison.
    "I think the public is tired of it," said Rep. Thomas Swisstack, D-Rio Rancho, sponsor of the bill the judiciary panel reviewed Friday.
    The legislation expected to be voted on next week requires all second and third offenders to attend at least a 30-day inpatient treatment program or a 90-day outpatient program, which could include drug court.
    Swisstack said there are between 3,500 and 4,000 such convictions annually.