New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Kurtis Ward scanned traffic, weaving his Ford Expedition through northbound traffic on Interstate 25. It was 8:37pm on a wintry Friday night. A full moon was cresting the Sandias.
The workday of the DWI Unit had just begun.
“I watch for that car that’s doing something that’s different,” he said. “The one that stands out: I want to watch that car.”
For a generation, the state has spent tens of millions of dollars a year to curb intoxicated driving and its toll on New Mexicans. In-school programs and public information campaigns advertise the legal and physical consequences intoxicated drivers risk.
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.
A district judge found state Sen. Richard Martinez guilty of driving while intoxicated and reckless driving on Tuesday.
This past summer, Martinez, D-Española, was driving when he hit the car of a couple waiting at a stoplight in Española. After the state senator was taken to a hospital, police arrested him for DWI and reckless driving.
The ruling on Tuesday came at the end of a two-day bench trial where Martinez’s lawyer, David Foster, argued that the arresting officer didn’t follow protocols for field sobriety tests and that signs of impairment by Martinez could have been from a head injury sustained in the crash.
During their closing arguments, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office argued that police lapel camera footage showed Martinez struggling with the sobriety tests and admitting that he had at least two alcoholic drinks that night.
In that footage Martinez was inconsistent on how much he had to drink and about the type of drinks he had. Martinez refused any sort of breath test, and replied, “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me,” when the officer asked for his consent. Prosecutors argued that comment was a “consciousness of guilt.”
“No one is above the law, not even a senator, not even this defendant,” one prosecutor told the judge.
In his closing arguments, Foster criticized police for not following protocol and for inconsistencies in their reports.
“How can you believe anything [the arresting officer] is saying?” Foster asked.
He also criticized prosecutors for pointing out a dark spot on Martinez’s shorts that can barely be seen in the police footage. During the first day of trial, prosecutors argued that the dark spot was urine and a sign that Martinez was too intoxicated to drive a car.
A state lawmaker’s DWI bench trial started Monday morning in Santa Fe. The first day of the two-day trial focused largely on the testimony from two victims, the arresting officer and two doctors.
Prosecutors charged state Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Española, of driving while intoxicated after he was involved in a crash last June. Martinez was arrested after he allegedly rear-ended a man in Española. Prosecutors on Monday argued that there was more than enough evidence to show that Martinez was intoxicated when the crash happened. Martinez’s lawyer spent the day mostly discrediting witnesses and arguing that signs of impairment could have been signs of a head injury.
The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office is trying the case as the Santa Fe district attorney recused himself from the case because Martinez has donated money to one of his campaigns.
Martinez sat stoically as he listened to testimony from both the arresting officer and the man and woman who were involved in the crash.
Johnny Sisneros, who says Martinez slammed into his car, testified that he was at a stoplight with his wife in the passenger seat when he was hit by Martinez’s car and described the impact as a “sudden boom.”
Then, Sisneros said, he was in immediate pain after his car was hit.
“It was like an electric shock,” he said of his neck pain.
He also testified that his injuries were bad enough to prevent him from playing with his granddaughter.
“I was her play buddy,” Sisneros said.
Now, Sisneros told the court, he can no longer jump on a trampoline with his granddaughter.
“I can only sit there and watch her jump,” Sisneros said, holding back tears.
ByJustin Horwath and Jeff Proctor, New Mexico In Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter |
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Boone wanted to reassure his boss. A political blogger was raising questions in early February about why the DA’s office had agreed to plead Ryan Flynn’s aggravated DWI charge, leveled after a May 20, 2017 traffic stop, down to careless driving. Flynn, one of the state’s most influential powerbrokers, was Gov. Susana Martinez’ former Environment Department secretary, and now heads up the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. This story originally appeared in the Santa Fe Reporter and New Mexico In Depth and is reprinted with permission. In a Feb.
ByJustin Horwath and Jeff Proctor, New Mexico In Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter |
Just after midnight on May 20, Albuquerque Police Officer Joshua Montaño saw a luxury sedan veer into a turn bay blocked off by bright orange traffic barrels before it pulled back over a solid divider line onto an Interstate 25 frontage road. Montaño flipped on his emergency police lights and the 2004 Infiniti stopped in the parking lot of the Marriott Pyramid, a high-end hotel in Northeast Albuquerque. A veteran DWI cop who has conducted hundreds of drunken driving investigations, Montaño approached the vehicle on foot. He was armed with a slew of additional information gleaned from a police service aide and a concerned citizen: The Infiniti’s driver had swerved numerous times traveling northbound from downtown Albuquerque, he’d delayed proceeding through a green light by 10 seconds, he’d driven 10 mph under the posted speed limit, and he’d done it all with his headlights turned off. In the driver’s seat of the car was Ryan Flynn, 39, Gov. Susana Martinez’ former cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, who left that job in 2016 to become executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
In April, the city of Albuquerque seized Arlene Harjo’s car after police charged her son for driving under the influence of alcohol. Harjo said she lent the car to her son after he asked to use it to go to the gym. Instead, he went to visit his girlfriend in Texas and was pulled over and arrested by police on his way back. To get her car back, the city told Harjo she had to pay $4,000. Plus, city law enforcement would keep a boot on her car for a year and half before she could drive it again.
The State Legislature passed 101 bills this year and sent them to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk. Out of those, Martinez vetoed eight with veto messages. Martinez had to decide by Wednesday at noon whether or not to sign or veto legislation. Related Story: Ten biggest vetoed capital outlay projects
Along with the eight vetoed bills, Martinez provided veto messages. We included the intention of the bill and portions of the governor’s message on vetoing the legislation for each of these below.
A Senate bill that would increase DWI penalties passed its last stop early Wednesday morning before heading to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for a signature. The almost hour long debate on the House floor consisted of one Democrat arguing against increased penalties that are inconsistent with other statutes. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said the bill was aimed at punishment when it should be aimed at preventative measures. “We can’t just throw numbers out there and try to out do each other and think we’re going to change anything,” Maestas said. A common theme this legislative session is cracking down on crime through increased penalties.
A Senate committee passed two bills that would increase DWI penalties on Wednesday evening. One bill is sponsored by both Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, and Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. The other is sponsored by Maestas Barnes and Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington. Maestas Barnes and Munoz presented both of their bills to the Senate Judiciary Committee together. Both bills passed on bipartisan votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.