FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A Bloomfield man who had eight previous DWI convictions has been found not guilty of drunken-driving after being jailed for 10 months.
Jose Valencia crashed his vehicle on an icy U.S. 550 last December. Valencia was complaining of soreness, so the state police officer who responded didn’t do a field sobriety test.
The officer did find signs of impairment in an eye test on the 53-year-old and detected a minor smell of alcohol, according to a report (http://bit.ly/OfMS66 in the Farmington Daily Times. A preliminary test showed Valencia had a 0.13 blood-alcohol content.
But when Valencia’s blood-alcohol content was recorded a couple of hours later at the jail it registered .06, under the under the legal limit of 0.08.
People who are under the legal limit can still be convicted of DWI in New Mexico if the prosecution proves alcohol or drugs impaired their driving.
Steven Johnston, who prosecuted the case, told the jury to consider that Valencia’s blood-alcohol content must have been higher than .06 at the time of the crash.
The argument didn’t sway the jury, who deliberated for 25 minutes before returning with a verdict after a two-hour trial on Thursday.
Defense attorney Arlon Stoker successfully argued that Valencia slid off the road because of the conditions, not alcohol.
“The officer admitted that you don’t have to be drinking to slide off that road,” Stoker said.
New Mexico police Sgt. Micah Doering, who responded to the crash, was the only person who testified at the trial.
The jury didn’t hear about Valencia’s previous DWI convictions, which were not admissible in court. The jury also never heard of the preliminary blood-alcohol test that was taken at the scene of the crash and about the failed eye test because the state didn’t provide a medical expert to testify about the validity of the test, Stoker said.
Valencia was held on a $70,000 bail after his arrest because of his criminal history. All of his requests for furloughs and bail reductions were denied. He was granted work release in June by District Judge John Dean, who presided over the trial on Thursday.
Valencia was released after the trial concluded.
“My client was pleased with the outcome,” Stoker said, “I had a very good jury who were very conscientious and did a good job of following the law.”