Drunk driving trial sparks crackdown on repeat offenders

Updated: 12/04/2013 6:16 PM | Created: 12/04/2013 5:29 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The baby’s name was Dmitri. For seven months he was safe and well in his mother’s womb – until a drunk driver slammed into their car near Las Vegas, NM in June 2012.

Doctors performed an emergency C-section to try to save Dmitri’s life. He only lived a few minutes, but many of us will never forget him.

Dmitri is the inspiration behind Gov. Susana Martinez’ latest push for tougher drunk driving laws including stiffer penalties for repeat offenders. The accused drunk driver in this case, Ramon Hernandez, is on trial this week in Las Vegas on charges of drunk driving and vehicular homicide. He has at least four prior DWIs.

“There’s someone who had four prior DWIs and he was still in a car and there isn’t any deterrent for that individual to get behind the wheel,” Martinez said. “If the laws are tougher and they’re going to spend more time in prison, then maybe that person will stay home or get a ride with somebody else and not drive drunk again.”

Dmitri’s parents, Aileen and Zachary Smith of Colorado Springs, testified in Hernandez’ trial Wednesday. Last December, almost a year ago, they met with Gov. Martinez to push for tougher DWI laws.  They told Eyewitness News 4 that they felt like they had a mission.

“I refuse to go and be quiet about it and grieve quietly about it,” Aileen Smith said at that time. “I think that’s one of the major things we’ve done, is that we have really worked hard to say we are not going to just forget our son.”

“We just decided that being quiet isn’t an option,” Zachary Smith added. “We had to make noise – get angry – do everything we could to change something.”

Gov. Martinez was the longtime District Attorney in Las Cruces before being elected governor in 2010. On Wednesday, she mused about all those years prosecuting drunk drivers.

“As a prosecutor I had cases in my office that went all the way to 21 prior DWIs,” Martinez said. “But they were still in a car, still driving drunk. In this situation Zach and Aileen – she was seven months pregnant.”

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