What Are the Classifications of a DUI?
Most crimes are not single crimes; instead, they have various classifications. Those classifications can determine the penalty involved if you are convicted of the crime. DUI (or DWI in New Mexico) is no stranger to this.
The Types of DWIs in New Mexico
New Mexico has multiple drug and alcohol-related offenses, but their Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) statutes fall into three primary categories:
A simple DWI means that the person was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including prescription medications). If there is alcohol involved, then the person’s blood alcohol concentration would be over the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent.
If you were under the influence of drugs, as long as the officer can show that the prescription or illegal substance was enough to hinder your ability to operate the vehicle safely, then you could be charged with a simple DWI. A simple DWI is nothing to scoff at. Instead, this can still carry jail sentences and fines, and you will have a permanent criminal record. In addition, you may have your driver’s license suspended.
Also, if you have previous DWI convictions, then you will face enhanced penalties for your second and subsequent offenses. This means a longer jail sentence and possibly even facing prison time or a felony charge.
Per se BAC DWI
A per se BAC DWI means that you have tested above the legal limit, and you are technically driving under the influence, even if you are not showing symptoms of intoxication. Therefore, you could be arrested even if you pass the field test.
Aggravated DWI are the most serious because they carry enhanced penalties and longer jail sentences. If you are charged with aggravated DWI, you have a BAC that exceeds 0.16 percent or more or you have refused to take a test.
Therefore, if you think refusing to take the breathalyzer will save you, think again. Instead, you could be charged with aggravated DWI instead.
Also, you might face an aggravated DWI charge if you drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and you have caused an accident or caused injuries to another person.
How BAC Limits Work – and Why They Are Not Set in Stone
You might assume that you cannot be charged with a DWI if your BAC is under 0.08 percent. But if you’re obviously impaired and you fall at the cusp, you could still be charged with a simple DWI. Also, the presumed level of impairment is 0.08 percent for all passenger vehicles, but it is 0.04 percent for anyone operating a commercial vehicle. New Mexico allows for DWI charges, even if you are only impaired to the slightest degree. This means you could just appear intoxicated or your driving shows that you are too intoxicated to drive.
The State Must Prove the Three Key Elements
To win their case, regardless of which classification you face, the state must prove three critical elements:
- You were under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications at the time.
- You were driving or in direct control of a vehicle.
- You were in the state of New Mexico.
You do not have to be driving to get a DWI. If you are behind the wheel and getting ready to start your car, an officer might arrest you. Likewise, falling asleep behind the wheel could still constitute a DWI.
What the State Views as “Under the Influence”
The law does not have a clear picture for what “under the influence” entails. Instead, case law now defines what under the influence might be. Basically, if you look as though you do not have a steady hand or good judgment at the time and you have consumed alcohol or taken drugs, then you could be arrested for a DWI.
An intoxicating liquor is not limited by the types of alcohol either, you can be charged with a DWI after drinking any form of alcohol, spirit, potable, or even bitter. Drugs would include all medications that can affect your driving, including over-the-counter and prescription medications. You do not have to be under the influence of an illegal substance to be charged with a DWI.
How the Law Views “Driving”
As stated before, you do not have to physically be driving at the time of your arrest. Any actual operation, including just sitting in the driver’s seat with the intent to begin driving, is enough to charge you with a DWI. You might think you can argue that you were only entering your car to sleep it off. But in reality, if you look as though you are in control and you could easily drive that vehicle from where you are positioned at the time, you face a DWI.
A DWI Is a Serious Offense
Being charged with a DWI is very serious. It can affect you for the rest of your life and may make it hard to keep your job. It might even affect child custody arrangements you have in place.
New Mexico does have implied consent laws. Therefore, if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you will automatically receive a driver’s license suspension. From there, you will have to fight to get it back from the Motor Vehicle Division by going to a hearing – otherwise, you may have up to one year without a license.
The penalties for DWI are serious. Your first offense still includes up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500. You may also have 24 hours of community service, court fees, alcohol screening tests, and an ignition interlock device for up to one year.
If you are a second-time offender, you now face up to one year in jail or up to five years on probation – a big change from a first offense.
It is critical that you hire a criminal defense attorney for your DWI, regardless of which classification you are facing. Each carries a harsh penalty and the reality that your life will change forever.