New Mexico Considers Banning Alcohol Purchases for Many Convicted Drunk Drivers

New Mexico, which has one of the highest rates of alcohol-related traffic deaths in the country, is considering a bill that would bar many convicted drunk drivers from purchasing alcohol anywhere.

The bill would prevent these drivers from buying alcohol in stores, restaurants or bars. If passed, it would be among the most restrictive drunk-driving laws in the country, according to The New York Times.

Currently, people convicted of drunk driving in New Mexico must install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, usually for one year for their first offense. An ignition interlock device requires a driver to take a breath test before starting the car, and will prevent the car from starting if the operator has a blood alcohol level above a certain level.

Under the current bill, the measure would be expanded so that drivers with interlock devices would be issued a specially marked driver license that states they are prohibited from purchasing alcohol.

The bill passed in the state House of Representatives, and cleared a Senate committee late last week.

“We have a terrible problem in New Mexico, and what we are trying to do is come at it from the other side, not just the punitive, incarceration and interlock side,” said State Representative Brian Egolf, who introduced the measure.

A legislator who opposes the measure, Representative Antonio Maestas, said he is concerned it will criminalize addiction. “What this bill does, in my opinion, is essentially micromanage alcoholism without providing a treatment option,” he said.

About half of states monitor drunk drivers’ alcohol consumption, generally through an ankle bracelet. Alaska has a similar law to the one being proposed in New Mexico.

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    March 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Why not a state license to drink that can be revoked or suspended? That would normalize checking ID for all alcohol purchases and provide a vehicle for license fees to help offset the obscene toll that alcohol takes on our society, even for non-drinkers. As for Rep. Maestas, not all drunk drivers meet any definition of addiction or dependence. He must own a brewery.

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    Patrick Hauer

    March 11, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    I think this is a great idea and have proposed this to whoever would listen in wisconsin. It is not a attempt to criminalise addiction, but should make it more difficult for the addict, who can still stay home and drink after convincing someone to be his/her enabler and go purchase a legal substance. THis is a harm reduction measure, and should be tried and evaluated as it is obvious that what we do in terms of punishing addiction currently does not work at all.

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