Thursday, March 22, 2007


Here in New Mexico this week a 53 year old man was arrested for the 28th time for DWI. He had been convicted on a dozen of those charges, and could go to prison if convicted on this new arrest.

In a recent session of the legislature, State Representative W. Ken Martinez, of Grants, introduced a bill which would have required an “interlock” on all motor vehicles to be licensed in New Mexico. That bill failed. Martinez said he believed that death from DWI could go the way of polio, if the federal government would pass a law requiring an “interlock” on all motor vehicles. The authority may be found in the commerce clause. “Interlock” could mean any device which is a part of the vehicle is tamper proof, and prevents operation of the vehicle by an impaired driver. A Japanese automaker has recently started making such vehicles with this safety device as an accessory.

Now, to the point of his post. Congress has told us our vehicles must have seat belts, air bags, and other safety features. I cannot start my vehicle when the shift stick is anywhere except in “park.” Why not “interlocks?” Then deaths and injuries and property damage from DWI would be a thing of the past.

Sandia Laboratory scientists have developed an “interlock” in the form of a metal wrist plate which instantaneously detects and measures alcohol in the bloodstream when one lays his wrist on the plate as a prerequisite to the act of keying the ignition. If there is any doubt as to whether inventors will be able to come up with a tamper proof, efficient device, then let the Department of Transportation study the issue and report.

This reform is overdue. The technology is here; the idea is feasible.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Libby jury is reported to have asked for a clarification as to the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” The government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Not beyond all doubt. Not beyond a shadow of a doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt. Here is the instruction to be given to the jury by the Judge in criminal cases in New Mexico.

14-5060. Presumption of innocence; reasonable doubt; burden of proof.(fn1)
1. Statute text
The law presumes the defendant to be innocent unless and until you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of his guilt.
The burden is always on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not required that the state prove guilt beyond all possible doubt. The test is one of reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense - the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act in the graver and more important affairs of life.
1. This instruction must be given in all cases.
Committee commentary. - The language of this instruction was derived from Devitt & Blackmar, Federal Jury Practice and Instructions, Section 11.01 (1970), and State v. Ellison, 19 N.M. 428, 144 P. 10 (1914). See also State v. Rodriguez, 23 N.M. 156, 167 P. 426, 1918A L.R.A. 1016 (1917).
Because of the importance of the presumption of innocence and the need to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, this instruction is required in all cases. It repeats some of the explanation given the jury at the outset of the trial in UJI 14-101.
It is generally accepted that the reasonable doubt instruction will cover a multitude of problems. For example, an instruction on the danger of eyewitness testimony is not necessary where the jury is given this instruction and UJI 14-5020, Credibility of witnesses. See State v. Mazurek, 88 N.M. 56, 537 P.2d 51 (Ct. App. 1975).

Now have you got it?