Thursday, March 20, 2003
DWI Penalty Increase Goes to Gov.
The Associated Press
SANTA FE The Legislature has sent Gov. Bill Richardson a measure that imposes harsher penalties on repeat drunken drivers and mandates treatment for them.
The House on Wednesday went along with changes the Senate had made to the bill, sending it to the governor.
Anti-DWI activists have been pushing for several years for tougher penalties for repeat offenders.
Under current law, fourth and subsequent drunken driving convictions are treated the same with a maximum of 18 months in prison.
The legislation provides that a fifth DWI conviction would be punishable by one to two years in prison; a sixth conviction by 18 months to 30 months; and a seventh or subsequent conviction by two to three years.
In addition, the minimum jail time for a second conviction would be increased from 72 to 96 hours.
Second- and third-time convicted drunken drivers would be required to complete either a 28-day inpatient substance abuse treatment program or a 90-day outpatient program, or a drug court program.
And the Corrections Department would be required to provide substance abuse counseling and treatment to imprisoned offenders.
To conform with federal law, the bill also makes it illegal to drive a commercial vehicle with a blood- or breath-alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more. The legal limit for other drivers is 0.08.