Senate committee stalls DWI, child-abuse bills

A statue outside the Roundhouse in Santa Fe.

Heath Haussamen / NMPolitics.net

Both bills would increase the state’s prison costs, their fiscal impact reports note.

A bill that would have allowed repeat DWI offenders’ sentences to be increased and a bill that would have increased punishment in some child-abuse cases did not pass the Senate Public Affairs Committee during its Sunday meeting.

The DWI bill, sponsored by Albuquerque House Republicans Jim Dines and Bill Rehm, called for amending the habitual offender section of the state’s Criminal Sentencing Act to include conviction of a felony. Currently, a judge cannot enhance a DWI offender’s sentence on top of their basic sentence, according to the bill’s fiscal impact report. The bill would change that.

The report also notes the bill had the potential to increase costs to the state’s prison system, where it costs $45,250 annually to house a single inmate.

Sen. Daniel Ivey Soto, D-Albuquerque, said statistics show a decrease in drunk driving incidents.

In 2014, there were 11,967 DWI arrests in the state, according to the DWI Resource Center. That’s down by 8,299 arrests, a 41 percent decline, from 2004.

“The laws we have are working,” said Ivey Soto, who voted against the bill with three of his Democratic colleagues.

A bill by Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, also died in a 4-4 vote.

The bill would have made intentional abuse of a child resulting in death a first-degree felony, regardless of the child’s age. Currently, it’s mandated to be a first-degree felony only if the child who died is under 12.

The bill’s fiscal impact report noted it could also increase prison costs. The report, citing information from the Office of the Public Defender, said the bill “would result in more people serving life sentences for conduct which is significantly less culpable than that proscribed by the homicide statutes simply because the victim was seventeen instead of nineteen.”

For example, the report says a 19-year-old could receive a life sentence for the death of a 17-year-old without the state having to establish the traditional requirements for a homicide, such as the intent to kill or harm.

Justin Horwath can be reached at 986-3017 or [email protected].

This BBSNews article was syndicated from NMPolitics.net, and written by Heath Haussamen. Read the original article here.