You're having a great night. You watched the Lobos defeat the Aggies and then headed downtown for celebratory drinks. As you're driving home, to your dismay, you see telltale flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror. You pull over to the side of the road and an APD officer approaches your car. The officer tells you he pulled you over because of a broken taillight, but he asks you to step out of the vehicle for a field sobriety test after he smells alcohol on your breath. Then, he asks you to take a breath test to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Based on the results, the officer informs you that he's placing you under arrest for driving while intoxicated. Your Albuquerque DWI case has just been born. So, what happens next?
After the Arrest: Albuquerque Booking
If you were arrested within the city limits of Albuquerque, chances are you'll be taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center for processing. A law enforcement officer will "book" you, meaning she will ask for your biographical information, fingerprint and photograph you, and check your past record.
Generally, after your arrest, you'll be released until your arraignment, although there are a few reasons why you may be detained. First, if you're considered a flight risk, you may need to post bail in order to be released. Second, if law enforcement has evidence that your DWI was very serious or complex, like those involving accident or injury, repeat offenses or high BAC, you may be detained until your arraignment.
The First Step: Albuquerque MVD Hearing
You may be asking yourself, "What's an MVD hearing, and why is it the first step in my DWI case?" In New Mexico, after you're arrested for a DWI, your driver's license will be confiscated, and you'll be given a Notice of Revocation. After 20 days, the Motor Vehicle Division automatically revokes your driving privileges for one year, but if you'd like to fight the revocation, you have 10 days to request a hearing with the MVD. If you request a hearing, it will be conducted within 90 days. The hearing is usually conducted at the Albuquerque Police Department.
Your MVD hearing is separate from your criminal DWI hearing, but some of the same standards apply. An attorney may represent you, and you will present evidence to show that your DWI arrest was invalid. However, unlike your criminal hearing, the State will not provide an attorney for your MVD hearing if you cannot afford one, the rules of evidence don't apply, and the law enforcement officer need only prove by a preponderance of the evidence (not beyond a reasonable doubt, as in criminal cases) that your DWI arrest was valid.
Understanding Your Albuquerque DWI Charges
Most of us know that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal under New Mexico law. If you're 21 or older, it's illegal for you to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. If you're under 21, it's illegal for you to drive with BAC of .02 or higher.
Not everyone knows, though, that if you're driving a commercial vehicle, the unlawful blood alcohol limit is 0.04 instead of 0.08. Also, you can be charged with Aggravated DWI, a more serious offense, if you're BAC measures 0.16 or higher. Generally, DWI offenses are charged as misdemeanors. However, a fourth DWI offense and subsequent offenses will be charged as felonies.
Steps of an Albuquerque DWI Criminal Case
Like all criminal cases in Albuquerque, DWI cases follow specific criminal procedures under New Mexico law. Following your arrest, you'll be arraigned, most likely at the Albuquerque Metropolitan Court. During the arraignment, you'll be informed of the charges against you and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. The judge will also review conditions of your release. If you can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to your case.
Let's assume you pleaded not guilty to the charges. You and your attorney will collect evidence in your case through a process known as discovery. Your attorney will meet with the prosecutor in a pre-trial conference to discuss the availability of a plea bargain. In New Mexico, plea-bargaining a DWI to a charge of "wet reckless" is barred by statute. However, if you've been charged with Aggravated DWI or other crimes, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that will reduce the charges against you.
Your attorney may also make pre-trial motions, such as motions to compel the prosecution to hand over evidence against you or even a motion to dismiss the charges against you entirely.
At your criminal trial, each side will make opening statements, present evidence, call and cross-examine witnesses and make closing statements. A judge or jury will then decide whether the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges against you.
Possible DWI Penalties
If you're convicted of a DWI in Albuquerque, the penalties you may face will vary depending on your BAC levels at the time of the offense and whether you've been convicted of a DWI in the past. If this is your first DWI offense, you could face up to 90 days in jail, up to $500 in fines, installation of an ignition interlock device for one year, community service, participation in an alcohol treatment program and probation. There are additional penalties for aggravated DWI (BAC over 0.15), including at least 48 hours in jail.
Subsequent DWI penalties carry harsher penalties. A fourth DWI offense will be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor and a conviction could result in 18 months of jail time.
If you'd like to learn more about DUI/DWI law, FindLaw's DUI Law section has a wealth of information about DUI arrests, DUI cases, and more.
Contact a qualified attorney.