- Associated Press - Monday, December 14, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Motorists with four or more drunken driving convictions would see stiffer mandatory sentences and people who toss the keys to convicted drunk drivers with driving restrictions would face harsh penalties under proposals unveiled Monday by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Speaking at the New Mexico State Police headquarters in Albuquerque, the Republicans governor said the state needs tougher laws targeting repeat drunk drivers and blasted the Democratic-controlled Senate for failing to support similar GOP proposals in the past.

The proposals “have been debated over and over and there’s nothing more to debate,” said Martinez. “Now It’s time to vote. And it’s time for the majority leader to read the bills and allow the Senate to vote.”

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said Martinez is attacking the Senate to distract voters from her efforts to ignore poverty. Sanchez said the state already has some of the toughest drunken driving laws in the nation and any more DWI proposals should come with better treatment options.

Sanchez said in a statement that New Mexico has some of the toughest DWI laws on the books, but they mean nothing if they aren’t enforced.

“Proposing tougher laws makes a good sound bite but it is not a solution for this complex problem,” Sanchez said in a statement. “We need more officers on the street to serve as a deterrent and cause people to think twice before getting behind the wheel under the influence.”

Martinez brushed off Sanchez’s claim that the state already had tough DWI laws and said more were needed to remove repeat offends from roads.

Under the governor’s proposed legislation, motorists convicted of four or more drunken driving offenses would see increases in maximum and minimum sentences. Those with eight or more DWI offenses would face a second-degree felony, with a maximum sentence of 12 years and a minimum of 10 years, under the proposal.

Martinez also wants legislation targeting those who recklessly toss keys to someone whose license has been suspended due to a DWI conviction. The proposal calls for adding a fourth-degree felony for driving drunk with a revoked or suspended license.

Last week, Martinez announced new executive orders aimed at arresting repeat drunken drivers.

She toured the state to discuss plans for increased patrols on the most dangerous highways and an aggressive effort to arrest drunken driving suspects who violate their parole or probation.


Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at https://twitter.com/russcontreras . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras .

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