City councilor proposes change to crack down on drunk drivers

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A Rio Rancho city councilor is trying to crack down on drunk drivers by sending them to a different court — a court that can dish out tougher sentences.

The councilor said moving the DWI cases to magistrate court will hopefully serve as a deterrent, sending a message to drunk drivers.

When drivers get pulled over in Rio Rancho and charged with a DWI, they make their way to the city’s municipal court. One city councilor is trying to change that.

“We’re going to take DUI’s first, second and third offenders from the city court system and move them over to magistrate court,” said City Councilor Bob Tyler.

Councilor Tyler said he wants to change where the cases are heard because it could be tougher sentencing at magistrate court.

“These folks could face more time being that they’re going to be at the state court at magistrate court,” said Councilor Tyler.

That’s because municipal court’s jurisdiction is restricted to petty misdemeanor charges and maximum sentences of ninety days. But if cases get moved to the county’s magistrate court, that could mean more time for second and third DWI offenses, where judges can impose up to a year in jail.

“I believe that going to the magistrate would be a better thing for the residents of Rio Rancho,” said local Nicolle Fitzgerald.

Locals who KRQE News 13 spoke with are in favor of the change.

“And I think people need to know driving while intoxicated is not okay,” said Fitzgerald.

“I think it’s important to the citizens. I think it lends the credibility, and hopefully reduces recidivism and reduces the amount of time we’re gonna see these folks over and over again,” said Councilor Tyler.

The Rio Rancho City Attorney’s office said currently the municipal court goes through about 450 DWI cases a year. This proposed change will be talked about at Wednesday night’s meeting.

Drivers arrested for a fourth DWI are charged with felonies. Their cases go to district court.

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