Last week, the New Mexico Court of Appeals released a decision that will have a big impact on New Mexico's DWI law. In the case of State v. Valdez (2013-NMCA-016), the Court of Appeals decided that anyone who is convicted of a DWI in New Mexico must have an interlock device installed in their car, even if the DWI did not involve alcohol.
In general, a person can be convicted of DWI if they are under the influence of any drug that impairs their ability to safely drive a vehicle. NMSA Section 66-8-102(B). However, the law also requires anyone convicted of any type of DWI “to obtain an ignition interlock license and have an ignition interlock device installed and operating on all motor vehicles drive by the offender[.]” NMSA Section 66-8-102(N).
In the case of State v. Valdez, a woman was arrested for driving under the influence of oxycodone and other prescription pills, but had no alcohol in her system. The woman pled guilty to DWI, but challenged the requirement to have an interlock device installed in her car, because she had not been drinking when she was arrested.
Interlock devices can only detect alcohol, and do not test for other drugs, such as marijuana or prescription pills. Therefore, the woman argued that there was no basis to make her install the interlock device, since alcohol had nothing to do with her arrest.
However, the Court of Appeals did not agree, and ruled that it is reasonable to believe there is a “connection between the use of prescription drugs and the use of alcohol.”
Therefore, even if you have not been drinking, if you are pulled over and convicted of a DWI for pills, marijuana, or any other drugs, you will still need to register for and install an interlock device, which costs a lot of money. An interlock will cost an average of $1,000 per year, plus the cost of getting an interlock driver’s license ($63.00), and fines if you try and start your car with alcohol in your system.