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What is the Difference Between DUI and DWI?

Do you know the difference between DUI and DWI in New Mexico?

If not, there’s a good reason for that. They are the same.

Within the justice system in New Mexico, we refer to most driving under the influence offenses as DWI. From a legal standpoint, there is no difference between this and DUI.

However, the two terms are often confused because the offenses are identical and it is generally acceptable to use the terms interchangeably. 

Unlike some other states, New Mexico does not differentiate between DWI and DUI. Punishments are identical and increase with the number of past convictions for similar offenses on your record.

The penalties here are harsh for both – among the strictest in the country when it comes to driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. 

What are the offenses of DUI/DWI in New Mexico?

DUI stands for “driving under the influence” while DWI means “driving while intoxicated.”

These charges against drivers deemed to be operating a vehicle while under the influence or intoxicated by alcohol or drugs (whether legal, illegal, or even prescription drugs). 

If your driving is deemed by a law enforcement officer to be “impaired”, you may be charged with DWI/DUI.

If blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.08 or over 0.04 (if you have a commercial driver’s license), you may be charged with DWI.  Even if you do not submit to a BAC test, you may be charged with a DUI or DWI in New Mexico, under the theory that your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle was impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol.

You may also be charged with an aggravated DUI or DWI offense if you refuse to submit to a BAC test, if you have a. BAC test with a result that is higher than 0.16, or if you have caused injury to someone else as a result of driving while impaired.

It is enough for a law enforcement officer to pull you over for reckless or impaired driving and to have reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking alcohol or are under the influence of drugs to charge you with DWI/DUI.

What are the penalties for a DWI/DUI misdemeanor? 

If you’re arrested and charged with DWI in New Mexico, it can lead to heavy fines or even jail time, as well as a license revocation and other penalties.

It may seem harsh for a first-time offender but a DUI/DWI conviction can have consequences beyond the days spent in jail. A permanent criminal record will show on background checks performed by future employers, landlords, banks, law enforcement, and so on.

So, it’s no exaggeration to say that your future is at stake if you face a DUI or DWI charge and you need to present a strong defense to avoid harsh consequences.

Penalties for a first-offense DUI/DWI

Specifically, the penalties for a first-time misdemeanor DUI/DWI include:

  • Up to 90 days in jail 
  • A fine of up to $500 

For a first offense, more leeway is generally granted by the justice system. The sentence can be deferred or suspended.  On a first offense, there is an ability with a deferred sentence to make an application to the court, upon successful completion of any probationary period, to have the case dismissed, as long as the case was not an aggravated charge of DWI or was reduced to a non-aggravated DWI as part of a plea agreement.

However, there may be penalties that cannot be deferred or suspended if you fail to comply with the terms of your one-year probationary period. 

Mandatory penalties of a DWI/DUI first offense include: 

  • Automatic license revocation
  • Installation and use of an ignition interlock device (IID) and obtaining an ignition interlock driver’s license, which mandates the only operation of vehicles equipped with an ignition interlock device for a period of one year
  • Attendance at DWI school
  • Alcohol screening and compliance with the recommendations
  • 24 hours of community service
  • Treatment (if recommended)
  • If the charge was aggravated for a BAC over 0.16 or for refusing to submit to a BAC test, there is a mandatory 48 hours which must be served in custody and the case is not eligible to receive a deferred sentence

 Penalties for a second or third-offense DUI/DWI

 For a second or third-time time misdemeanor DUI or DWI, penalties include:

  • Up to 364 days in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • On a second DWI offense, there is mandatory jail time of 4 to 8 days, depending on whether the charge was aggravated or not, as well as increased community service
  • On a third DWI offense, there is mandatory jail time of 30 to 90 days, depending on whether the charge was aggravated or not, as well as increased community service

As part of plea negotiations, sometimes These sentences can also be suspended in part so that you can escape serious jail time and the larger fine if you comply with the terms of probation.   For second offenses and higher, the State must prove that the prior offenses were committed by the same person and that there was a previous conviction(s).

However, the probation period for second and third offenses may be longer than for a first offense – up to five years.

The probation terms are similar to a first offense but usually require much more intensive substance abuse treatment and probation supervision. 

Other more serious classifications of DUI/DWI in New Mexico may lead to even harsher penalties.

Felony DUI/DWI

Any fourth or subsequent DUI/DWI will lead to a felony DUI/DWI conviction.

This requires mandatory jail time and requires compliance with some of the strictest felony probation requirements:

  • A DWI fourth conviction is a fourth-degree felony: mandatory minimum of six months’ imprisonment (up to a maximum sentence of 18 months) l
  • A DWI fifth conviction is a fourth-degree felony: mandatory one-year imprisonment term (up to a maximum of two years) 
  • A DWI sixth is a third-degree felony: mandatory eighteen months’ imprisonment (up to thirty months)
  • A DWI seventh conviction is a third-degree felony: mandatory minimum of two years’ imprisonment (up to three years)
  • A DWI eighth or subsequent conviction is a second-degree felony: a mandatory minimum of 10 years imprisonment (up to twelve years). 

Do you need help with a DUI/DWI?

For many people charged with a DWI in New Mexico, it is their first (and only) brush with the law. It can be an intimidating experience. There may be numerous court appearances required and the defense of these cases is complex.  There are also consequences to driver’s licenses, as, under the New Mexico Implied Consent Act, a driver’s license will be automatically revoked unless the driver requests a hearing through the Motor Vehicle Division within 10 days of being arrested.

You’ve seen the penalties and they are no laughing matter. With the potential consequences affecting your life for years ahead, it is important to present the best possible defense for any DUI/DWI charge.

At the New Mexico Legal Group, our experienced DUI/DWI lawyers will help you navigate the complexities of the legal processes for both the criminal case as well as any driver’s license hearings and/or possible consequences of revocation. Call us at 505.876.9175 or get started with a free case evaluation.