Man is respectable, says attorney

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SOCORRO
A local man pleaded no contest to his fourth DWI conviction in a plea agreement with the state on July 12, 2012.
That fourth offense stems from a traffic stop on Dec. 31, 2010. However, when Richard Pino, 44, was arrested for driving while intoxicated that night, the arresting officer did so believing it was his fifth offense.
Later, when the criminal complaint was filed, the District Attorney’s Office alleged that it was actually his 10th. But those claims are exaggerated, said Albert Costales, Pino’s attorney.
“Mr. Pino is not a 10-time convicted DUI offender,” Costales said. “They have no proof.”
Costales said the District Attorney’s Office has not produced any documents that prove Pino has been convicted of DWI that many times. Keith Valles, the prosecuting attorney for the DA, disagrees with that statement.
“We provided all the information to (Pino’s) attorney,” Valles said, adding that the records they have show that, before the incident occurred in 2010, Pino had nine prior DWI convictions.
In the plea and disposition agreement signed by both parties in the case, the state says they “could have presented evidence sufficient to prove that the defendant had been convicted of at least three prior DWI offenses” if the matter had gone to trial.
But that didn’t happen. Valles said problems arose while trying to get a conviction. Time was a factor, he said. The biggest problem, however, was that the arresting officer, Clinton Norris of the New Mexico State Police, was transferred out of the district while the case was in litigation.
He failed to show when he was called before the court on two separate occasions and was subsequently excluded as a witness, Costales said. Valles said Norris would have had to leave his new jurisdiction, T or C, in order to testify.
Also during preliminary procedures, a dispute arose about the legality of getting a breath alcohol concentration level from Pino. Costales said he alleged the police forced Pino to submit to that BAC test.
On that night in December 2010, Pino had a breath alcohol concentration of 0.10, 0.02 over the legal limit.
“(That’s) not indicative of someone who’s driving out of control,” Costales said.
In fact, Pino was pulled over because his headlight was not working, according to the criminal complaint filed in magistrate court in 2011. He was not stopped because he was driving erratically.
Pino is a hard-working, “top-notch” plumber and a responsible person, Costales said.
“We don’t prosecute someone based on their character,” Valles said, but rather on their criminal actions.
During the night of his arrest, Pino was driving north on El Camino Real in a gray Chevy pickup when Norris noticed the right headlight of the truck was out, according to the criminal complaint. Norris made the stop, and Pino admitted that his license had been suspended because of a prior DWI.
“While speaking with Mr. Pino,” reads the complaint, “I (Norris) could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath and person. I asked Mr. Pino if he had anything alcoholic to drink.”
At first, Pino said no, but then relented and admitted to consuming three beers and two shots of Jack Daniels.
“The last shot (was) within 20 minutes of driving,” according to the complaint.
According to www.drinkinganddriving.org, a drunk driving prevention and education website, the average person must wait at least 45 minutes after one drink in order to be sober enough to drive. An additional 45 minutes must be added to the total for each additional drink. Of course, gender, height and weight are factors in how long it takes for alcohol to get out of a person’s system.
After discovering how many drinks Pino had that night, officer Norris put him through sobriety tests. From the results of these tests, Norris “determined Mr. Pino was driving under the influence of an intoxicating liquor and placed him under arrest,” according to the complaint.
Pino’s sentencing hearing is Aug. 23, 2012. He has to check in every day with the DWI Compliance Office and is under house arrest until his sentencing. The maximum penalties for a fourth DWI offense are 18 months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. The other charges filed against him because of the incident in 2010 — driving with a revoked license and driving an unsafe vehicle — were dismissed.