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Editorial: After Blowing .17, State Representative Louis Should Step Down

While State Rep. Georgene Louis is doing the absolute right thing by admitting her dangerously flawed choices, that’s not enough to restore confidence in her ability to make responsible decisions for the rest of New Mexico.

And so she should resign from the New Mexico Legislative Assembly.

The Albuquerque Democrat, who is a practicing attorney, was arrested Sunday night in Santa Fe by an officer who arrested her for allegedly going 17 mph over the speed limit on St. Francis Drive. The officer reported a strong smell of alcoholic beverages coming from inside the car and that Louis’ eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the criminal complaint.

Video from the backside camera of the stop shows Louis cooperating with the officer during his first stop. Once out of the car, however, she refuses to take off her glasses so the officer can track her eye movements. She then repeatedly refuses to take her hands out of her pockets during the line walk test, repeatedly pointing out how cold she is. She eventually takes her hands out of her pockets and completes the test, but only after the officer has had to repeat the instructions several times and patiently listens to her pleas about her cold. When he offers her gloves, she refuses.

She also declines the first offer to take a breathalyzer test. A few minutes later, after being placed under arrest, she agrees to take a test at the station. Police say two breathalyzer tests revealed Louis had a blood alcohol level of 0.17%, more than double NM’s alleged level of intoxication, resulting in an aggravated DWI charge. She is also charged with speeding, expired registration and lack of proof of insurance.

Unfortunately, Louis isn’t the only lawmaker facing DWI charges. In recent years, former state Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, have been convicted of aggravated DWI. Both had refused to take tests to determine their alcohol level.

If convicted, Louis faces a mandatory minimum of 48 hours and up to 90 days in jail; an ignition interlock license for 1 year with an ignition interlock in each vehicle driven during that period; fine of up to $500; up to 1 year probation and mandatory 24-hour community service; DWI School, Victim Impact Panel and substance abuse screening.

Especially considering the level of drunkenness and the speed, Louis is very lucky that no one was injured, including herself.

Drunk driving continues to be a scourge in New Mexico. Prior to the pandemic, New Mexico ranked fifth in the nation for most impaired driving-related fatalities in 2019. According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation, there were 2,237 related crashes to alcohol in 2019, accounting for approximately 4.6% of all crashes. But the 149 alcohol-related fatal crashes accounted for 40.4% of the state’s 369 total fatal crashes in 2019.

In a statement released by his lawyer on Monday, Louis said, “I am sorry and deeply regret my error in judgement. I know I let so many people down. I accept responsibility for my mistake. I prioritize my health and will work hard to earn back the trust of my constituents, my community and my family.

Louis has a lot to do, his health and his legal file above all. And so, as we did with Youngblood and Martinez, we are asking Louis to resign from the Legislative Assembly. (Once Youngblood served her sentence, the Journal reluctantly endorsed her in her losing bid for re-election.)

The Journal endorsed Louis for her District 26 seat representing the South Valley of Albuquerque and Pajarito Mesa, a seat she first won in 2012. But Louis put lives at risk even though she knew better. She should now step down and focus on her case. New Mexico deserves better.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned because it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the editors.