Know the Law Before the Law Knows You


Is driving a right or a privilege?

It is a privilege that the state of New Mexico regulates. You must pass a written test and a driving test before you are issued a driver’s license. This privilege can be revoked and your license to drive can be suspended by the state for many reasons, including multiple collisions, excessive tickets, driving without registration and insurance, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Do the parents continue to be liable for a child’s accident after the child turns 18?

Maybe. Although the liability of a parent may end when a child becomes 18, a parent can still be liable if the parent "negligently entrusted" the vehicle to their child (i.e., the child has a history of reckless driving, suspended license, etc.) or under the "family purpose doctrine" (i.e., there is no insurance on the vehicle and/or the child generally uses the vehicle for family errands, etc.).

Are all drivers required to have car insurance?

Yes. All drivers are required to maintain a liability insurance policy and to carry proof of insurance in the vehicle. A driver is required to show proof of insurance to a law enforcement officer who requests it. Proof of liability insurance is required for driver’s license renewal, annual vehicle license renewal, and motor vehicle title transfer. Failure to carry insurance is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine.

How do driving laws apply to motorcycles?

All laws of the road that apply to cars also apply to motorcycles. However, a regular driver’s license does not permit a person to legally operate a motorcycle on public roads. A person must apply for a permit to operate a motorcycle and must either satisfactorily complete a safety course or pass an operator’s test in order to be granted a permit to operate a motorcycle.

What happens if I am stopped for driving while intoxicated (DWI)?

You will be arrested and taken to jail if you fail a breath/blood test. Your license will be suspended for a specific period of time determined by law. In addition, if you refuse to give a breath/blood specimen, the time of suspension will be increased. You have the right to request a hearing to contest the driver’s license suspensions.

Your license can be suspended following your arrest for DWI and following your conviction for DWI. Persons under the age of 21 can also be charged with DUI, driving under the influence. A DUI can be filed simply because an officer detects an odor of alcohol about you. You do not need to be drunk or high to receive a DUI. A DUI can result in a fine and a license suspension.

What are the penalties for driving while intoxicated?
  • No prior conviction (“first offense”): Fines and jail time are determined by the legislature. In addition, you will be required to attend some alcohol counseling or educational programs. Remember that your license may have already been suspended.

  • One or more convictions: Maximum amounts of fines, jail time, and driver’s license suspension may more than double for a second offense. This, then, becomes a felony.

  • Open containers: It is a criminal offense for a driver or passenger to possess an open container of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle on any public street or highway, whether the vehicle is moving or is stopped or parked.

  • In all cases you may be eligible for probation for a period of time. Penalties are substantially increased when serious bodily injury results from the offense. If it is shown at the trial that at the time of the offense the person operating the motor vehicle had an open container of an alcoholic beverage in his immediate possession, the minimum jail term substantially increases.

Do the “driving while intoxicated” laws apply only to cars and trucks?

No. Under New Mexico law, they apply to operating “motor vehicles,” which includes motorbikes, motorcycles, aircraft, boats and watercraft.

This is GENERAL and BASIC information only. Laws are constantly changing. Exceptions and special circumstances exist. You should seek legal advice from an attorney to your choice who can take into account all the factors relevant to your particular situation.