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Do You Need a Drunk Driving Attorney if You Get a DUI in Albuquerque?

Driving under the influence. Driving while intoxicated. It does not matter which acronym you use to describe it. When an individual decides to get behind the wheel while impaired, the consequences are serious. Driving under the influence of legal or illegal substances is a crime in every state. In New Mexico, if you drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or higher, you are considered DUI.

Is there a difference between DUI and DWI in New Mexico?

Under New Mexico law, a DUI and a DWI are indistinguishable. DUI is an abbreviation for driving under the influence while DWI is short for driving while intoxicated. Both DUI and DWI are charges defendants may face if their driving is affected by a legal or illegal substance or prescribed medication. It does not matter if a substance is legal. If any legal or illegal substance impairs your driving and you are caught behind the wheel while using it, you may find yourself facing a DUI or DWI charge. In New Mexico, most driving under the influence charges are filed as DWIs.

How do the police determine if you are DUI?

It can be a scary experience to find yourself pulled over by the local or state police under suspicion of DUI/DWI. How you handle the situation from the moment you are suspected of impairment behind the wheel can make all the difference in the outcome. Sometimes the local or state police will conduct what is known as a DUI checkpoint. When this happens, officers are randomly selecting drivers to check for impairment. In New Mexico, DUI checkpoints are legal, but there is a list of pre-set guidelines officers must follow when conducting one. If they fail to follow the rules, any drivers they arrest and any evidence they collect as part of the checkpoint may be ruled inadmissible in court.

Other signs police officers look for when determining if a driver should be pulled over for suspected DUI/DWI include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving under the speed limit
  • Erratic driving
  • Aggressive driving
  • Improper lane usage
  • Driving without headlines on

What should I do if I am pulled over for DUI/DWI?

Staying calm and remaining polite during a suspected DUI/DWI stop is highly recommended. Since all police officers in New Mexico are required to wear body cameras, it is likely the encounter is being recorded by the officer. There are some other things you can and should do once the officer approaches your vehicle.

  • Be sure to provide your name, license, and vehicle registration when prompted by the officer. This is the minimum you are required to do under New Mexico law.
  • Never admit to drinking (even if you were). Once you open that door, the officer can ask follow-up questions such as how much you had to drink and what kind of alcohol you consumed. An officer also might ask if you are under the influence of any substances. Again, you do not have to answer those types of questions. Doing so is considered self-incrimination and you are not obligated to help an officer build a DUI/DWI case against you.
  • Decline a field sobriety test. Officers can ask, but you are within your rights in Albuquerque to refuse to comply. While officers can ask you to step out of your vehicle, they cannot force you to take a field sobriety test under New Mexico law. Field sobriety tests are admissible in court. The problem with field sobriety tests for DUI/DWI is they test your balance. There are other reasons besides alcohol or substance use that can affect a person’s balance.

Can I refuse a breathalyzer test or DUI blood test?

This is a question that individuals charged with DUI/DWI ask frequently. New Mexico and all U.S. states have what is known as an Implied Consent Law. That means drivers must agree to take a breathalyzer, blood, or urine test when an officer makes the request. Breathalyzer tests are performed at the scene. If an officer requests a blood or urine test, you will be transported to the nearest hospital to conduct the testing.

If you refuse any of these tests, your driver’s license can be seized. You will be issued a temporary permit by the New Mexico Department of Motor Vehicles, which is valid for 20 days. You must request a hearing to have your permanent driver’s license reinstated within 10 days from the date of your arrest. It can take up to 90 days to schedule a hearing. Your charges also may be upgraded to aggravated DUI/DWI, which carries more serious penalties.

Another question we are asked often is whether you can ask to consult an attorney before agreeing to a field sobriety test, a breathalyzer, or a blood or urine test. Unfortunately, the answer is no.

What is the best way to deal with a DUI/DWI charge in Albuquerque?

Even if this is the first offense, it is in your best interest to consult an attorney about the best way to handle your DUI/DWI charges. Criminal defense attorneys who are experienced in handling DUI/DWI cases are the best chance you have of saving yourself from a driver’s license suspension. They also can use their extensive knowledge of New Mexico case law to get a DUI/DWI charge reduced or dismissed. Sometimes defendants insist on handling their own DUI/DWI cases and are pressured to accept plea deals that are not in their best interest.

What are the penalties for a DUI/DWI in New Mexico?

When individuals violate New Mexico’s DWI laws, the penalties they face depend on whether it is a first offense, or they are a repeat offender.

First-time offenders can expect any combination of the following if they are convicted of DUI/DWI:

  • An ignition interlock license and device for every vehicle for one year.
  • Up to 90 days in jail (with 48 hours of jail time mandatory).
  • Up to a $500 fine.
  • Up to one year of probation.

Mandatory penalties for first-time offenders include 24 hours of community service, DWI school, and Victim Impact Panel. They also can expect to be required to complete a substance abuse screening and submit to any recommended treatment.

Repeat offenders have many of the same consequences, with increased durations and fines. They also face the possibility of losing their driver’s license permanently.

Can I beat a DUI without a criminal defense attorney?

Sure, you might get lucky. You also might end up agreeing to a plea bargain you later regret. Why take the chance? Marcus Cameron is one of the best DUI attorneys in New Mexico. He has over 23 years of legal experience that includes 2,500 administrative and legal hearings and 47 trials.

Marcus Cameron and his legal team understand the ins and outs of New Mexico DUI/DWI laws. They can advise you on the best course of action to ensure you are treated fairly. This includes determining if accepting a plea bargain is in your best interests, or if a dismissal or downgrading of charges is warranted. Whatever the solution, we will work hard for you. Give us a call at 505-218-7844 or contact us online to schedule your DUI/DWI consultation.

February 23, 2021