Updated: Saturday, 26 Jun 2010, 10:03 AM MDT
Published : Friday, 25 Jun 2010, 10:15 PM MDT
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The New Mexico Supreme Court has ruled that cops can arrest someone for drunk driving, even if they never saw that person driving.
The court's ruling centers around a case from December of 2007.
A mall employee tipped off Santa Fe police about Marcos Martinez, saying he was drunk and tried to unlock several vans before finding his and speeding off.
By the time police tracked down Martinez, using his license plate number, he was already home.
Officers say Martinez was falling-down drunk when he came to the front door. The officer felt the hood of Martinez's van, and it was still warm.
The officer never saw him driving but arrested him anyway.
Martinez fought the DWI charge and the case was dismissed, but the state's highest court decided his aggravated DWI charge should stand.
“It shouldn't just be a free pass because you were able to beat the police home," Albuquerque Public Safety Director Darren White said,
Gary Cade with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office explained this change in policy now means, “The police will handle DWI’s like they handle felony crimes.”
He went on to say that cops won't need to spend time getting a warrant.
“That always runs the risk that someone who is under the influence of liquor or drugs would have that substance dissipate in the interim while those warrants were being prepared," Cade said.
Police will still have to determine probable cause and be able to prove the person was driving drunk at some point.
This could lead to more DWI arrests, but White says even police know some of those cases will be tough to win.
“Just because someone is arrested doesn't mean a jury or a judge is going to agree 100 percent of the time," White said.
One of the biggest problems with trying these cases will be how much time elapsed between a tip and when an officer arrives.
A DWI suspect could always argue that they got drunk at their destination, before police arrived.
Officials hope this decision will encourage even more people to report suspected drunk drivers.
That Drunkbusters number is #DWI.