Prosecutor tough on drunk drivers

William Thompson

Motorists in Quay County who decide to drink and drive are likely to have to match wits with District Attorney Ron Reeves if they are charged with DWI.

Reeves has been prosecuting DWI cases for 12 years and personally handles most of Quay County’s cases. “When I started as a prosecutor 12 years ago, I was working in Las Cruces under a grant that funded DWI prosecution,” said Reeves. “I enjoy doing DWI cases. I think they are very important cases.” Reeves also handles DWI cases in De Baca and Harding counties. “Sometimes jurors in rural areas have a hard time wanting to convict first-time offenders,” said Reeves. “There is not a lot of traffic in rural areas. Some jurors recall times in their lives when they’ve had a little too much to drink at a dance and then drove home without any problems.”

Reeves said even though he takes the cases seriously, he understands why a judge can sometimes be lenient with first-time offenders. “A lot of times it depends on the individual offender,” said Reeves. “What the judge is looking at is the person’s criminal history. Other criminal offenses in the offenders’ past such as domestic violence or other alcohol-related offenses could cause the first-time offender to receive the stiffest penalties allowed.” Reeves said the penalties increase significantly for each successive DWI conviction. “A fourth conviction is actually a felony,” he said, “and there are regular DWI’s and ‘aggravated’ DWI’s.”
There are three ways a motorist can be charged with aggravated DWI.

“The driver has to blow a .16 or higher on the Breath test. The driver can also be charged with aggravated DWI if he or she refuses to take the breath test or a blood test,” said Reeves. “The third way the charge can be elevated to aggravated DWI is if any injuries resulted from driving while intoxicated.” A driver who blows a .08 or higher on the breath test is presumed to be intoxicated under New Mexico Law. Reeves said a .05 or lower means the state presumes the driver to be sober. Nothing is presumed either way if a test registers a .06 or .07 breath-alcohol content. “When a police officer observes someone driving erratically, that officer must make observations of the driver’s condition,” said Reeves. “The officer’s observations along with results from a field sobriety test help the officer decide if the driver will be charged with DWI.”

Reeves said a breath test is usually given at the Quay County Detention Center after the driver has already been charged. “Sometimes the officer made the decision to arrest by following proper guidelines but then the driver blows a .05 or lower on the breath test,” said Reeves. “I will sometimes move to dismiss a case when that happens.”
If an offender is at or above the legal limit, that offender will have a tough time beating the rap in Quay, De Baca and Harding counties. “We’ve lost a few in my career, but I haven’t lost any cases lately,” said Reeves.“

The district attorney’s office has taken on 11 DWI cases in November. A first-time DWI offender can lose his or her driving privileges for one year if DWI school is not completed. A mandatory one-year license revocation is one of the penalties for a second offense, and a third offense can net a license revocation of 10 years.