February 14, 2022

Albuquerque Democratic lawmaker booked into jail on charge of aggravated DWI

Photo Credit: eviloars cc

State Rep. Georgene Louis, a prominent Democrat from Albuquerque, is the latest lawmaker to face drunken-driving allegations in recent years.

She was booked into the Santa Fe County jail early Monday morning on suspicion of aggravated DWI and other charges.

Louis, who has been a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2013, chairs the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, which canceled its meeting at 8:30 a.m.

She issued a remorseful statement late Monday through her attorney, Kitren Fischer.

“I am sorry and I deeply regret my lapse in judgment,” Louis’ statement said. “I know I let so many people down. I am accepting responsibility for my mistake. I am prioritizing my health, and I will work hard to regain the trust of my constituents, my community and my family.”

Democratic leaders in the House said the Legislature would continue its “critical work” over the next three days.

“We don’t foresee any negative impact on legislation,” Camille Ward, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, wrote in a text message.

Louis’ arrest created a buzz in the Capitol, but lawmakers didn’t bring it up publicly.

“Georgene is a dear friend and a truly excellent legislator,” Egolf said in a statement. “Until I have more information about the facts or the chance to speak directly with her, I cannot make any further comment.”

Louis is the third legislator in New Mexico arrested for DWI since 2018.

In the summer of 2019, then-Sen. Richard Martinez, a former Rio Arriba County magistrate, was arrested after he crashed his SUV into the back of another vehicle in Española, injuring two people. The powerful Northern New Mexico Democrat, who was sentenced to five days in jail after he was found guilty of driving while intoxicated, lost reelection in the primary after the incident, ending his nearly two decades in the Legislature. 

His arrest came just over a year after former Republican state Rep. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving at a DWI checkpoint. Youngblood, who was convicted of one petty misdemeanor count of aggravated DWI, lost reelection, too.

Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, also faced a DWI charge as a lawmaker but has continued serving in the Legislature for more than two decades after the incident. She was arrested in 1999, when she was serving in the House, and pleaded guilty the same day.

Police stopped Louis for speeding on St. Francis Drive about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

Santa Fe Deputy Chief Ben Valdez said a DWI officer assigned to a “Super Bowl saturation patrol” conducted the traffic stop.

“The officer did conduct standardized field sobriety tests and a breath test; they were administered, which supported the suspicion of impaired driving,” he said. “She was subsequently booked this morning.”

The officer observed “indicators” of possible impaired driving, “like an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitted [from] Ms. Louis.”

Valdez said it was his understanding Louis cooperated with the officer.

“There were no major issues that were brought to my attention,” he said.

Fischer, wrote in an email Louis cooperated fully with law enforcement.

“She is taking this matter very seriously and is looking forward to a swift resolution,” Fischer wrote.

Isaac Dakota Casados, chairman of the Native American Democratic Caucus, said in a statement Louis, an attorney and a member of Acoma Pueblo, has always been a committed public servant and a strong voice for Native communities.

“This is a developing situation, and we encourage respect for her right to due process under the law as this investigation moves forward,” he said.

Valdez said the Santa Fe Police Department provides the public with education on the dangers of impaired driving.

“We also have an enforcement component through saturation patrols and checkpoint operations,” he said. “We just continue to ask people to not drive impaired. It’s dangerous and caused senseless tragedies that could have been avoided. This is pretty disappointing.”

The Republican Party of New Mexico called on Louis to resign.

“Rep. Louis should do the right thing and resign from her House seat,” Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “She faces criminal charges, and this kind of behavior does not coincide with that of a responsible public servant. Rep. Louis has violated the public trust, let down her constituents and endangered the lives of innocents. New Mexico deserves better.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.