New DWI bill garnering a lot of attention

Posted at: 02/20/2013 7:12 PM
Updated at: 02/20/2013 7:16 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

How about this deal for drunk drivers - you get convicted of DWI five times, you lose your license - permanently.

That's the idea behind a bill in the state Senate that's getting a lot of attention at the State Capitol these days. If this bill becomes law, hardcore repeat drunk drivers will lose their licenses for the rest of their lives - no ifs ands or buts - and no appeals for ignition interlocks, either.

An interlock is what kept Joseph Rodarte driving after 19 DWI arrests and 8 convictions. No more of that if this bill becomes law.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. George Munoz, comes from McKinley County, where drunk driving is an epidemic.

"You've got to do something," said the Gallup Democrat. "Why give them a license in New Mexico if they're going to keep repeating, repeating, repeating. In McKinley County I think the highest one is 13 convictions."

Munoz' bill would take effect at five convictions, but some lawmakers wonder whether it will work. They say stiffer penalties don't seem to make a dent in the behavior of hardcore drunk drivers.

"What always worries me is that these folks have an addiction and a substance abuse at a really high level," said Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat. "Whether they've got a license or not doesn't really matter. They're getting behind the wheel."

One veteran sheriff's deputy told KOB Eyewitness News 4 years ago that nothing seems to work on the hardcore repeat drunk driver - jail time, losing the license, impounding the vehicle. He suggested that amputating their hands might be the only solution - but there's probably a legal issue with that.

The lifetime license-loss bill is scheduled for its first committee hearing tomorrow.