Isleta lieutenant governor convicted of DWI; sentence to include classes

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Isleta Pueblo Lt. Gov. Edward Paul Torres was convicted of DWI last week after a breathalyzer test last year found he had a blood alcohol level four points higher than the legal limit.

Los Lunas Magistrate Tina Gallegos found Torres, 63, guilty of DWI and having no lights and no registration.

Police say that on the night of Sept. 18, 2011, Torres had watery, glossy eyes and an odor of alcohol coming from a blue 1998 GMC pickup truck he was driving when he was pulled over by police on Bosque Farms Boulevard and Pine Street.

Gallegos ordered Torres serve 24 hours of community service and have an ignition interlock device installed on his vehicle for one year while he completes one year of unsupervised probation.

Torres will also have to pay $591 in court costs and attend DWI classes.

Police initially pulled Torres over for not having his tail lights on while he was turning east onto Pine Street, according to a police report.

The report said the truck had expired tags on its license plate on the vehicle Torres borrowed. The headlight switch was in the off position when Torres was pulled over.

Torres told police he hadn't been drinking that day and said he could not find proof of insurance.

The arresting officer, Toby Lafave, found the documents in the glove compartment after Torres gave him permission to search the vehicle, according to the report.

According to the report, Torres told officers, "Can I just say something? I don't want to influence you, sir. I wasn't paying attention. I am the lieutenant governor here at Isleta Pueblo."

Lafave, a then-Bosque Farms Police officer, testified that Torres had a slight sway and smelled of alcohol the night he was pulled over for no tail lights.

Lafave said Torres failed a field sobriety test where the individual is asked to walk a straight line. He said Torres started too early and used his arm for balance at some point during the test.

Torres' blood alcohol level was .12.

Defense Attorney Carlos Scarborough said Torres didn't swerve or hit any objects just before he was pulled over. Scarborough questioned Lafave about the manner in which Torres exited the vehicle.

"He didn't stumble once he got out of the truck?" Scarborough asked.

Lafave testified Torres "walked fine" before he was administered sobriety tests.

Scarborough said Torres may have had problems performing the tests because of his physical health. The defense attorney said Torres was overweight and had problems with his hand at the time of the incident.

He said Torres could have had trouble hearing the officer's instructions.

Lafave testified he had Torres perform alternate tests from the normal, standardized tests. He said Torres responded to his requests in a timely manner.

"You had Mr. Torres perform these tests knowing that he had hip problems," Scarborough said. "Your training also indicates to me that people of a certain age, 65 or older, could have problems with these tests, correct?"

Lafave testified he administered the alternate tests to take into account the limitations Torres may have had with problems with his hands and weight.

Scarborough said Lafave did not have probable cause to arrest Torres and asked the judge to throw out the evidence that contained the results of the breathalyzer test.

The defense attorney said the foundational requirements were not met to have the results admitted as evidence. He said Lafave did not testify to how many grams of alcohol were tested and the temperature of the machine at the time of the incident.

He told the judge the grams of alcohol and the machine's temperature are required to be listed as part of the results by the New Mexico Department of Health and the Scientific Laboratory Division. The attorney said, according to state statute, the officer has to testify about those elements in order for the results to be admitted.

Assistant District Attorney Ana Romero Jurisson argued that Lafave testified that the machine was certified at the time of the incident and that it ran all of its calibration checks. She said a lack of that line of testimony doesn't invalidate the test results.

"The officer testified the machine was within the regulations," Romero Jurisson said.

Gallegos asked Scarborough to clarify his motion.

"Nobody asked the question," Gallegos said. "We know what's on the card. I know what's on that card. So if the officer didn't mention it, does that disqualify the card? That's what your motion is. Is that correct?"

Scarborough said the additional information that's not on the card "leaves a lot to be assumed."

"The machine can tell you it's working fine," he said. "But it's a machine."

Gallegos allowed the evidence in the trial after Romero Jurisson read case law that said that if the machine was not working properly, it would not maintain its certification. The machine was certified at the time of the incident.

The incident was Torres' first DWI offense.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.