New Mexico lawmaker found guilty of DWI in Albuquerque
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A judge found a New Mexico lawmaker guilty of aggravated drunken driving Tuesday, citing her performance and seemingly flippant demeanor during a field sobriety test last spring.
The verdict was announced following an hours-long bench trial in metro court for Monica Youngblood, an Albuquerque Republican who was arrested in May at a police checkpoint on the northwest side of New Mexico’s largest city where she said she was returning from a friend’s house.
Police video of the stop shows she refused a blood-alcohol text, but complied with a field sobriety test. The officer who arrested her, however, testified in court that Youngblood did not follow his specific instructions as she complained of being cold, started counting before he directed her to, and stepped slightly to the side when asked to walk in a straight line.
Officer Joshua Montano also testified that he noticed soon after Youngblood stopped her vehicle and rolled down her window that she had bloodshot, watery eyes.
“Her demeanor strikes me as someone who didn’t understand the gravity of the situation or who was somewhat impaired,” Pro tem Judge Kevin Fitzwater said.
Youngblood is a three-term state lawmaker who consistently supported outgoing Gov. Susana Martinez’s tough-on-crime agenda over the years, including proposals for tougher DWI penalties. She said in a brief statement to reporters after the trial that “not a day goes by” in which she doesn’t regret the circumstances of the night she was arrested.
She said she would accept the outcome of the judge’s decision at sentencing set for Oct. 3. She also apologized to her constituents as she seeks re-election in November.
Her attorney had sought to undermine the validity of the checkpoint stop, arguing that the public wasn’t properly notified as required by law. He also argued Youngblood had performed well on the sobriety test in contrast to the officer’s testimony.
On the stand, Officer Joshua Montano testified that he could smell alcohol on Youngblood, despite her assertion that she hadn’t consumed any since the day before.
“To me it smelled like alcohol,” he said. “She was elongating some of the words.”
In the 44-minute police video, Youngblood gets out of a BMW she is driving and tells the officer that she is returning home from her boyfriend’s house after a dispute.
There are no passengers in her car, though there was a small dog.
Youngblood follows the officer’s commands to balance on one leg for 20 seconds on a sidewalk. While taking steps in a straight line, she appears to lose her balance but quickly regains it.
When the officer asks Youngblood her education level, she tells him she has a high school diploma and real estate license. “Plus, I’m a state rep,” she said.
She is friendly and tells the officer she supports what they are doing.
However, she becomes visibly upset and tearful after she’s handcuffed, saying she performed the field sobriety test perfectly.
When her initial request to have her handcuffs removed is turned down, she tells the officer that she had dismissed critics who said police mistreated minorities.
“I wrote bills to protect you all,” she said.