SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The First Judicial District Attorney’s (DA) Office has been working on a new approach to tackling the state’s DUI problem. They are searching for a successful way of convicting offenders.
The District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe said they are seeing a 90% success rate at getting DWI convictions because of the new way they’re choosing to prosecute them.
“We need to keep our streets safe. We need to keep our citizens safe, and for everyone to feel that they can walk on the streets, drive on the streets safely,” said First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
Carmack-Altwies said the new program to go after suspected drunk drivers has been in effect since she took office in 2021. In the new program, the DA’s office pauses DWI charges after someone has been arrested.
This allows officers more time to collect evidence needed to help convict the suspect. When enough evidence is collected and presented, then charges are filed completely, and the DA’s office has everything they need to go to court.
“I think, is coming from being patient and working with our law enforcement agency partners, and making sure that they have the resources, they need to collect all of the evidence,” Carmack-Altwies.
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According to the DA’s office, before the new program, Santa Fe County had DWI conviction rates ranging from 30% to 40%. While it’s unclear just how many people have been convicted, the DA’s office said the conviction rate is now 90%.
“It’s something that you don’t see a lot around the state partnerships between DAs’ offices and law enforcement agencies. We should be seeing it because we are partners in attempting to get fairness and justice for the citizens of this community.”
Those numbers only show a 90% rate for the cases the district attorney’s office pursues.
According to the New Mexico Judiciary Annual Statistical Report for 2021, 34% of DUI cases in district courts are dismissed in Santa Fe County. While it’s tough to get an accurate gauge on how the program is working because it is so new, the DA said the numbers are promising.
“We have seen some pushback from other members of the community, but we have not seen a large number of re-offenders.”
The DA’s program does have the backing of law enforcement like the Santa Fe Police Department. The department said they will continue to work with their partners at the First Judicial District and provide them with the evidence and reports they need in court.