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Fewer DWI Arrests in Albuquerque During COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has put tremendous strain on many civic institutions, including the police and the court system.

A new story from the Albuquerque Journal has shed some light on how police and the courts have performed in the pandemic, particularly when it comes to drunk driving accidents and Albuquerque DWI arrests.

Fewer DWI Arrests But More DWI-Related Accidents

According to the Journal article, the annual number of DWI-related arrests fell by more than 1,000 in 2020, compared to 2019. A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office said there were 1,924 DWI cases filed in 2020, compared to 2,967 cases in 2019.

However, while there were fewer arrests, the number of DWI-related accidents more than doubled, the DA’s Office said.  The Journal cited a University of New Mexico study that analyzed traffic accidents for the state Department of Transportation and found that 39 of the 110 fatal traffic accidents in Bernalillo County during the year involved alcohol.

The Pandemic Forced the Albuquerque Metropolitan Court to Go Virtual

Safety concerns related to the pandemic caused the Albuquerque Metropolitan Court to shift to virtual proceedings. While judges have been doing video arraignment calls for several years now, the shift to virtual meetings for almost all cases was a challenge. The courts had to develop virtual waiting rooms and electronic sign-in systems to make the process as smooth as possible.

Another issue was that with so many people losing their jobs to the pandemic, more people needed a public defender to represent them because they could not afford their own lawyer.

Issues Prosecutors and Police Have Due to Court Going Virtual

The main issue for police and prosecutors as the courts transitioned to virtual proceedings was communication. Low-income defendants do not always have easy access to computers, making it difficult for them to attend Zoom meetings virtually. These meetings allow people to call in using their phones, but defendants with lower incomes may also be on limited phone plans that can make it challenging to stay for the full length of a hearing.

Judges and prosecutors responded by dismissing less serious charges. They also set up virtual “breakout” rooms so prosecutors could talk with defendants and/or their attorneys to see if they could resolve their case without a trial.

Challenges for Lawyers

Public defenders said they have a tough time adjusting  to virtual court proceedings because individuals who opt for a public defender often have limited means. They may not have ready access to computers or smartphones with internet service, making it challenging to meet.

Another common issue for both defense attorneys and prosecutors involved interpreters. Internet issues can make it difficult for interpreters to see and hear what a person is saying and translate in a timely, effective manner. A similar issue happened when the defendant had to call into a meeting without video because the interpreter could not see them as they were talking.

How Parnall Law Firm Can Help You

Civil courts are now open in New Mexico, and if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver, the skilled injury lawyers at the Parnall Law Firm can help you. Our diverse legal team has decades of experience helping those who’ve been hurt due to the negligence of others while helping them obtain the compensation they rightfully deserve.

We’ll identify all potentially liable parties in your accident, thoroughly investigate your case, and aggressively negotiate to get you a fair settlement. And if the responsible parties won’t pay what you’re owed, we can take your case to court to get you what you deserve.

Contact an Attorney from Parnall Law Firm

At Parnall Law Firm, we are committed to the highest standard of legal representation. If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a drunk driver in Albuquerque, we want to help. We are ready to provide a free consultation to discuss your case. Our No Fee Guarantee will ensure that you’ll be satisfied with your experience with us. Don’t wait. Reach out to us now by calling or contacting us online.

While pursuing a major in history and French at Rice University in the early 1990s, I spent a year studying at La Sorbonne in Paris in 1991. I received my B.A. from Rice University in 1993 and continued to focus on writing — mostly fiction and plays — for a year before entering New Mexico University School of Law. Since then, my team has helped to recover more than $100 million for our clients. Though my firm has grown quickly to fill the legal needs of our community, it has retained its focus on providing excellent service to clients.