The 5th, 8th 16th , 17th, DWI offender – are you kidding me?

By Linda Atkinson
Executive Director
DWI Resource Center

In New Mexico we continue to see offenders with multiple and multiple DWI arrests and convictions still out there on the roads, getting arrested (again) or worse they have killed innocent people.

How does it happen?

What we know from the research, in order to reduce DWI death and injury is a four –pronged approach (and it works to reduce recidivism):

  1. Detect and Arrest
  2. Fully Prosecute
  3. Sentence to meaningful sanctions
  4. Follow-through to make sure the offenders COMPLETE their sentence.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican on May 25, 2010, Daniel Lefebre was arrested for his 16th DWI. I reviewed Lefebre’s record and found he has actually been arrested 19 times.  What most concerns me is there are many more offenders out there just like Lefebre.

Regarding that research-based approach, unfortunately, New Mexico falls short in all four areas. The efforts of law enforcement can seem almost gallant as they arrest these offenders only to have a revolving door criminal justice system let them go. Unfortunately, we have a domineering defense bar in this state, many prosecutors who are too green to know how to fully prosecute or just too overwhelmed make the sweet deals to move a DWI case through. There are more judges than not who accept the sweet deals and most courts don’t have the resources to ensure sentences are carried through. I have been in a courtroom where the prosecutor did not even know what the sanctions were for a DWI first-time offender (and he had offered the plea deal) nor did the judge who was accepting the plea agreement.

If you step into a courtroom and spend some time observing the “system” it doesn’t take long to figure it out on your own how someone can rack up these numerous offenses.

In the last few years the movement to have ignition interlocks in these offenders vehicles sends a very wrong message – we want you to drive!  And it is exactly the wrong message to send to our multiple offenders.  I don’t want them anywhere near a vehicle!

So in review – some of New Mexico shortfalls when it comes to stopping a multiple offender;

1.  Lack of full prosecution

2.  Lack of meaningful sanctions

3.  Rehabilitative far more common than punitive sanctions

Other related issues to discuss in upcoming articles:

Courts of no record – Municipal and Magistrate

Non-attorney judges

Leveling the playing field – what’s in a plea deal

Purchasing a vehicle without a valid drivers license

Very little oversight of the ignition interlock providers

Follow the money