Senate needs to pass interlock change

When suspected drunken drivers are released pending trial, conditions of release mandate they can't drink alcohol. When convicted drunken drivers are sentenced, conditions of probation mandate they not drink alcohol.

So why, then, should they be able to buy it?

House Bill 87 would prohibit drunken drivers who have interlock licenses from purchasing alcohol. Sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, it simply codifies what is being handed down in courtrooms across New Mexico. Too many courtrooms.

Metropolitan Court in Bernalillo County alone handles around 5,000 DWI cases annually. There were 154 alcohol-related deaths on New Mexico roads last year.

State law already requires all convicted drunken drivers who want to drive to get an interlock license and have an ignition interlock, which prevent vehicles from running if alcohol is detected on the driver's breath. And lawmakers updated the law in 2009 so that those convicted of DWI cannot simply wait out their sentence by claiming they do not have a vehicle.

HB 87 would require that interlock licenses indicate the holders can't buy alcohol. Egolf says he wrote the legislation after watching a man buy a soda and two miniatures of liquor at a convenience store, mix them and drive off in a vehicle equipped with an interlock.

HB 87 has passed the House and is in the Senate. Lawmakers there should get it — and HB 349, which toughens penalties for DWI — to the governor to sign.

— Albuquerque Journal

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