NM Supreme Court: Tail lights do not need to be in ‘good working order’ to comply with state law

Politics - Government

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – An interesting ruling from the New Mexico Supreme Court involving a tail light that could get a DWI conviction tossed out. John Farish was arrested for DWI in April of 2012. The arresting deputy said he pulled over Farrish on the basis that his tail lamp was defective. He was later convicted of DWI.


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However, Farish challenged that argument saying only one of the two bulbs was out and the light was still illuminated, therefore the tail light was still in working order. He argues because of that, the deputy had no right to pull him over.

According to a news release from the NM Administrative Office of the Courts, the Supreme Court concluded that as long as a vehicle’s tail lamp complies with specific equipment requirements in state laws, including that it emits enough light to be visible from at least 500 feet, then it meets the more general requirement to be in “good working order” – even if there is a burned-out bulb on a tail lamp with multiple bulbs.

Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Farish did not violate the tail light code so there is the question about whether the deputy did conduct a lawful stop. The high court sent the case back to the district court to be re-examined based on their ruling.

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