Time really flies when you’re saving lives, and it’s been 12 years since New Mexico passed the first ignition interlock law in the United States. Since that time the state has cracked down hard on drunk drivers, and other states in the country have followed suit by passing their own ignition interlock laws. Every state now has some type of interlock law on the books, and there are now 30 states who have passed all offender ignition interlock laws.
Give New Mexico’s history of keeping drunk driving offenders off the roads, why is a District Attorney asking for harsher DWI laws in the state? It turns out that one drunk driving offender got off fairly easily after he caused a crash, but it was the lookback period that prevented him from being properly prosecuted.
The man, Christopher Garcia, was driving under the influence of drugs including cocaine, opiates, and amphetamine when he crashed. The victim in the crash was severely injured, and because it was Garcia’s third DWI charge, the goal of the prosecutor was to have him sentenced to significant jail time.
When he appeared in court he was sentenced to three years in prison, but the Judicial District Attorney on the case felt that it was far too light considering what he’d done, the injury he had caused, and the fact that he had two prior DWIs on his record. Unfortunately, because the offender’s previous two convictions were more than 10 years old, they didn’t count toward his new conviction.
That 10 year period, also known washout, is the set amount of time that any previous DWI or DUI can be held against you in a court of law. Once the 10-year period has passed, they are no longer relevant to other charges, and because of that three years in prison is all this offender could receive. He’ll also spend two years on probation when his jail time is up.
Lookbacks are part of most state’s DWI laws, and if they become a significant problem for prosecutors, lawmakers have the option to extend them or eliminate them altogether. That’s what may be up next for New Mexico, and if so, that change could prevent another offender like this one from getting off light.