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Chemical Testing in New Mexico for DUI

Chemical testing in New Mexico cannot be refused in the same way that field sobriety tests can.  A driver has the right to decline taking a field sobriety test in New Mexico, even if the police officer fails to notify the driver of this.  If a driver refuses a chemical test (such as a breathalyzer) to determine BAC, the acting officer must make the driver aware of the repercussions that will result, including a minimum 90 day revocation of the driver’s license.  If the driver still refuses to take the chemical test, he could be subject to the aforementioned suspension of license.

While field sobriety tests are used to test the driver’s cognition and motor skills, chemical tests are used to quantify the actual amount of alcohol in the bloodstream.  As a result, these tests are much better tangible evidence of a person’s intoxication or sobriety.  If the driver refuses to take a field sobriety test or if the test results in suspicion of drunk driving, the police officer will then have the driver take a chemical test to determine the precise level of intoxication.

Chemical tests can be administered in multiple ways.  The officer could have the driver take a breathalyzer test upon being pulled over.  The other common method is for a certified medical professional to draw a blood or urine sample at a hospital.  A common type of test used in New Mexico is the blood test.  These tests measure the content of alcohol in the blood, or blood alcohol content (BAC).  The legal limit of such content is 0.08 in New Mexico (0.02 for minors found to have consumed alcohol).  A driver who has reached the age of majority is presumed to not be under the influence with a BAC of 0.04.  Thus without more evidence of intoxication, a reading of 0.04 or below will not result in any charge of driving under the influence.  The BAC content alone thus can be determinative, as it will be viewed as significant evidence of intoxication or sobriety by the court.

In New Mexico, the driver does not have the right to choose which type of chemical test they take.  The police department makes that decision.  However, the driver may refuse to take a blood test if they are willing to take a breath or urine test instead.  Either way, the driver and his attorney have the right to access the results of any chemical test induced by the police.   In addition, the driver has the right to ask for an independent chemical test to be administered by a trained professional.

Every state including New Mexico has an implied consent law (see below) forcing all drivers to submit to a form of chemical testing upon request of a police officer who pulls them over on suspicion of driving under the influence.  Failure to comply with a request for a chemical test is an automatic violation of the implied consent law, and the driver’s license will be suspended for up to one year.

Chemical testing is never perfect and there are usually defenses and challenges available.  An attorney may be able to help challenge and perhaps overturn a faulty test, thus freeing the driver of culpability.  If a driver is convicted of driving under the influence, he is responsible for paying the costs and fees associated with the administration of the test.  This involves both the cost of the actual test itself, as well as the cost of witness fees and other associated costs.  This can lead to even more of a burden on the convicted individual.

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