- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Mexico’s Department of Transportation will reportedly begin broadcasting case updates on DWI suspects and the judges who go easy on them, thanks to a $800,000 federal grant-funded contract with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez said MADD will monitor DWI cases in at least six New Mexico counties hit hardest by drunk driving and then send details about those cases to department officials, who will identify repeat offenders and the judges in official tweets, Fox News reported. The governor said she hopes the plan will target generous plea bargains and lenient sentencing, The Albuquerque Journal reported.

“It will help us identify where the judicial process can be strengthened,” Ms. Martinez said Tuesday at a news conference with New Mexico State Police and DOT officials, The Journal reported.

The program, which is set to launch in June, includes plans to have MADD send daily updates to the transportation department after court hearings of some DWI defendants in Bernalillo, Doña Ana, McKinley, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and San Juan counties, The Journal reported.

The transportation department will then use a Twitter account to post updates on those cases as they move through the court system. The tweets will include already public information, but the department is still determining whether to include the mugshots of defendants, Loren Hatch, a deputy secretary at DOT, told The Journal.

“Too many lives have been shattered by drunk drivers, and too often our justice system fails our families by going easy on the criminals,” the governor said in a statement. “By shining a light on our courtrooms, New Mexicans can see first-hand how DWI cases are being handled.”

Ousama Rasheed, an attorney on the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said people who face DWI charges are innocent until proven guilty and the extra exposure from the state’s tweets could influence sentencing, The Journal reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said it is reviewing the new program, spokesman Micah McCoy told the Associated Press.

Democratic state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas called the program a public relations stunt that unfairly places the blame on judges and prosecutors.

“Blaming a judge for not enough conviction rates is like blaming [a baseball] umpire for not enough strikeouts,” he said.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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