Posts Tagged ‘DWI’

Going After Teens is Senseless

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

A terrible tragedy happened a couple of weeks ago, when repeat drunk driver Scott Owens killed four Santa Fe area teens:

Teen driving is in the spotlight after a June 28 crash that left four teenagers dead. Law enforcement authorities say Scott Owens had a blood-alcohol content of .16 nearly four hours after he crashed into a car with five teens inside.

The only teen to survive the crash on Old Las Vegas Highway was driving on a provisional license. Holders of those licenses are barred from driving between midnight and 5 a.m., and from driving with more than one other person under 21 in the car who is not an immediate family member.

The driver, 16-year-old Avree Koffman, didn’t have alcohol in her system, authorities said.

The problem here is not teen drivers. The problems is that we allow habitual drunks to get back on the road time and time again instead of locking them up. Case in point this guy with six DWI’s on record:

48-year-old arrested Wednesday still hasn’t been charged in July 4 accident.

Calvin Finch, 48, of Aztec, was arrested Wednesday for his sixth DWI, just 11 days after he was involved in a crash that killed 62-year-old Harry Irvin, whose motorcycle was struck by Finch’s pickup truck at the intersection of U.S. 550 and San Juan County Road 2105, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

Yet, rather than tackle the tough problems head on, some lawmakers want to go after the vast majority of law abiding teens out there:

In the wake of the crash, some lawmakers are thinking about changes to state law that might help keep teen drivers off the streets during prohibited hours.

Rep. Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, said he’s considering a bill under which teen drivers with restricted licenses would have to display a marker on their car, such as a bright yellow triangle in the back window.

Give me a break. Studies referenced in the article have not come up with any concrete evidence that further restricting teen driving makes a difference. Keeping our kids from driving when they are not supposed to be driving is a parental responsibility, not a police responsibility.

Lawmakers, like Representative Egolf, should focus on passing legislation that puts habitual drunk drivers behinds bars, not taking away parental rights.

Valencia County Sheriff Endorses Martin Heinrich

Monday, August 25th, 2008

The Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, Martin Heinrich, proudly exclaims on his website that he has garnered the support of three of the four sheriff’s that make up the district – the fourth being his opponent, Sheriff Darren White.

I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at why these particular sheriffs might choose to support Martin Heinrich over Darren White. Today, we’ll start with Valencia County Sheriff, Rene Rivera, and Rivera’s stated reason for supporting Martin Heinrich:

Valencia County Sheriff Rene Rivera appeared Saturday at a Valencia County welcoming event for Martin Heinrich. In his endorsement, Sheriff Rivera said, “I’ve been in law enforcement for over 19 years fighting against crime and drugs. Martin Heinrich was tough on crime on the Council, and I know he’s the right partner in Congress to help keep our streets safe. That’s why I’m endorsing him.”

Since I’m not a Valencia County resident, I don’t know much about Sheriff Rivera’s crime fighting record over the last 19 years, but when it comes to being tough on DWI’s, his record is, well, less than impressive:

[Valencia County sheriff’s deputy] Duran has been arrested on DWI charges twice before, according to Belen Magistrate Court records. In 2003, Duran was charged with DWI and speeding but pleaded guilty to resisting an officer and reckless driving, and the other charges were dismissed. In 2004, he was charged with aggravated DWI causing bodily injury, and the charge was dismissed without prejudice.

[Valencia County Sheriff] Rivera said he knew when he hired Duran, a former State Police and Socorro police officer, that he had a prior DWI charge. However, he said Duran was hired because he had never been convicted.

One thing most voters can agree on is that number of repeat DWI offenders allowed on our roads has got to stop. Yet, Sheriff Rivera, not only doesn’t seem to be bothered by the problem, he is willing to look the other way and give a two time offender a badge. And, apparently, Martin Heinrich must agree with him because Heinrich’s proud to accept Sheriff Rivera’s endorsement.

It is worth noting Sheriff Darren White’s record on DWI enforcement:

Sheriff White has also made preventing and reducing DWI a top priority in Bernalillo County. In addition to being an outspoken advocate for harsher penalties, under his leadership, the Department has undertaken aggressive DWI enforcement operations.

So, on the one hand we have a law and order candidate for Congress, Sheriff Darren White, an on the other, we have a candidate, Martin Heinrich, who happily accepts the endorsement of a Sheriff who seems to believe that the solution to the DWI problem is to give repeat offenders a job as a deputy.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at another one of the Sheriff’s who supports Heinrich.

NEVER Should Have Been Prosecuted

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Yet, another case that should have NEVER been prosecuted:

The clerk accused of selling alcohol to an intoxicated Dana Papst shortly before a deadly crash that claimed six lives was found innocent by a Sandoval County jury Wednesday.

Shanna Renee Lovato, 31, sobbed when the six-person Magistrate Court jury, four men and two women, returned with the verdict after deliberating 11/2 hours.

Lovato was suspected of selling Papst a six-pack of beer at the Chevron Redi-Mart in Bernalillo before he drove the wrong way on Interstate 25 east of Santa Fe and hit a minivan, killing five members of the Gonzales-Collins family. Papst also died. The wreck occurred in November 2006.

What befell the Gonzales-Collins family is a tragedy. However, there are only two parties to blame here, Papst and our legal system. Papst was a menace to society and the death of this family was completely preventable had he been where he belonged, behind bars:

Papst was convicted of auto theft in 1984 and of driving while intoxicated four times — in Adams County in 1982, in Westminster in 1987, in Adams County in 1990 and in Eagle County in 1991. His license has been suspended numerous times for other driving offenses; he was cited 12 times for speeding, driving with a suspended license and equipment violations, among other things.

Instead, the state decides to try to make everyone else responsible for preventing the actions of criminals – everyone, but the criminal. Of course, the irony of all of this is that in an unrelated case one man is being sent to jail for preventing future criminal actions by a habitual criminal.

14th DWI’s and Still Driving

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

You’ve got to wonder what is actually getting done up at the New Mexico legislature when stories like this keep hitting the headlines:

Joseph Robert Vigil is a hard-core drunken driver.

Laws that allowed the state to revoke his driver’s license and send him to prison as a habitual offender didn’t prevent the 48-year-old Santa Fe man from getting arrested again Sunday on a DWI charge.

Depending on which records you look at, Sunday’s arrest could be the 14th time since 1991 that he’s been nabbed, said Thomas Beretich, analyst for the DWI Resource Center in Albuquerque. And Beretich said records indicate that when Vigil drives drunk, he’s really drunk.

Vigil’s breath-alcohol content during his first DWI arrest, in 1991, was measured at .34 — nearly four times the legal limit. He blew a .33 in 2001 and a .35 in 2006, said Beretich, who obtained the figures from the center’s database.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said Monday that preliminary tests of Vigil’s blood-alcohol level after a deputy picked him up Sunday indicate it was about four times the limit. “He fits the profile of many repeat offenders in the eight- to 12-DWI range,” the sheriff said.

This man deserves a life sentence because it’s only a matter of time before he kills someone. Yet, our system allows him to be back on the road. What a mess.

First Line Shows Bias

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Sometimes you can read the first two sentences of a newspaper article and immediately see the bias (subscription):

A 62-year-old Oregon youth counselor was left out in the cold in a high-crime area by Albuquerque police late New Year’s Eve.

But police say they were just doing their job when they seized his car.

The reporter has put the police on the defensive. That’s absurd. The real story buried half way down in the article is:

Police stopped Vargas about 11 p.m. after they saw him driving too fast over speed bumps in the 200 block of Pennsylvania NE, APD Capt. Murray Conrad said.

Vargas has three DWIs and a revoked license, according to his motor vehicle record. Vargas, who had an Oregon identification card, was charged for driving on a New Mexico suspended license, according to a Metro Court criminal complaint.

Not one, not two, but THREE DWI’s and he is still driving on a revoked license. Yet, the guy whose car he is driving, Dennis M. Lufkin of Medford, Oregon, wants an apology from the police.

Give me a break.

The headlines the day before reported that a drunk driver killed two people on New Year’s Eve (subscription). I’m thinking Mr. Lufkin owes the people of New Mexico and apology.

Drive Further for a Drink

Monday, October 15th, 2007

If you ask me, providing a city with less liquor licenses as a DWI prevention tactic is illogical (subscription):

Lopez said he was hoping to use the quota system to slow the migration of liquor licenses from rural to urban and resort areas while he assessed the impact of liquor license density on drunken driving accidents and fatalities.

“My charge when I was appointed by the governor was to do something about the DWI problem from the supply side,” Lopez said. “I want to make health and safety concerns, for instance the impact on DWI accidents in an area, one of the main considerations for deciding whether a license should be able to move to a location.”

People who drink and drive are not going to do so less because they have to drive further to find an establishment with a liquor license. Instead, they are more likely to be behind the wheel as they travel to get their next drink.

If you really want to get people off the road, you would have more urban drinking holes, not less. This way, people can walk to their neighborhood bar and then walk (or stumble) home instead of getting behind the wheel of a car.

And make no mistake, liquor licenses limits are about one thing, and one thing only, raising money for state coffers:

According to department records, two licenses in Las Cruces sold for $600,000 each. Elsewhere, at least one has sold for $400,000, and others sell in the $350,000 price range.

“The price of liquor licenses was growing steadily,” Lopez said. “When we see a license sale for $600,000, I believe the day of a $1 million liquor license can’t be far off.”

What a racket!

Things That Make You Go, “Hmm.”

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

The Albuquerque Journal today is just full of stories that leave you scratching your head…

Perfect example of what’s wrong with taxpayer funded campaigns (subscription):

A new system for public financing of Albuquerque political campaigns has given about $32,000 to a City Council candidate who is in bankruptcy.

Governor Bill Richardson is upset that (subscription):

The Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday reaffirmed its support for an agency investigation that determined US Airways did not violate federal alcohol regulations in the case of a Tesuque man [Papst]who killed five members of a family while driving drunk hours after getting off a US Airways flight.

However, we should be upset that after countless DWI press conferences and initiatives held by Governor Richardson, the fact remains that (subscription):

Records show Papst had been arrested for DWI at least five times in Colorado, Solano said.

Seems to me that it’s the government, not the airlines that put this dangerous drunk on the road.

And in a follow up to Monday’s blog post, the lines continued to to be blurred between UNM and the Governor’s needs (subscription):

The director of the University of New Mexico Cancer Research & Treatment Center used her state e-mail account to help organize a private fundraiser for Gov. Bill Richardson’s presidential campaign.

Hmm, I wonder if the ethics task force is planning to comment on this?