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Admission of Evidence of DUI in New Mexico

The legal limit of BAC for driving in New Mexico is 0.08.  If the driver has a BAC below this level, it carries the presumption that the driver is not intoxicated.  However, such evidence that a driver is not intoxicated can be rebutted by evidence discovered by police showing the driver was in fact more intoxicated when driving the vehicle despite the lower BAC reading.  The police will consider the driver’s behavior on the road as well as their demeanor upon being apprehended, and a charge of DUI can thus occur in New Mexico despite a low BAC reading.

In terms of specific evidence that can be admitted, New Mexico Rule of Evidence §11-105 says the court has the discretion to restrict evidence to its proper scope.  §11-401 defines relevant evidence as “evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.”  In other words, relevant evidence is evidence that may be necessary to prove an element of the crime alleged, rather than merely to demonstrate an aspect of the defendant’s personality or moral character, for example.

Further, a driver arrested for driving under the influence in New Mexico is deemed as having consented to a chemical test of some sort, so failure to submit to one of these tests is weighty evidence against the driver of the vehicle.  If a defendant refuses to provide some sort of chemical testing (such as a blood test) to determine the level of BAC, this refusal is admissible as evidence at trial, as well as the negative implications associated with it.

Chemical samples collected by police or certified medical professionals are admissible at trial as long as they are taken: (1) incident to a lawful arrest, (2) by a reliable and accepted method of obtaining such sample, (3) in a reasonable, medically approved manner, and (4) where there is probable cause to believe the evidence sought exists.  Thus blood samples need not be collected in a hospital to be admitted; rather, they must only be taken in medically approved conditions.  The most common motion in DUI hearings is typically a motion to suppress the results of these chemical tests.  If the judge grants such a motion, the evidence collected from the chemical test will not be admissible as evidence against you at trial.

In context of an appeal, an appellate court in New Mexico will not overrule a trial court’s decision to admit evidence unless there is a question regarding abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court.  As long as the evidence at trial was introduced for some proper purpose of prosecution, the use of such evidence will be sustained by the court of appeals.  However, if the evidence is obtained illegally and thus is an error of law, then the punishments could be significantly reduced if not waived entirely.  Examples of such legal error include allowing inadmissible evidence into trial (evidence that violates constitutional rights, for example) and giving faulty instructions to the jury.

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