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Judge Holds DWI Court at High School

Posted Mar 31, 2008 5:33 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Instead of waiting to see area high school students show up on the wrong side of his courtroom, New Mexico Magistrate Danny Hawkes has decided to take his courtroom on the road—holding DWI hearings in packed auditoriums and requiring defendants to give impromptu speeches about why these youngsters shouldn't drink and drive.

This is the second year for Hawkes' Courts to School program, and he'd like to take it statewide.

He told the Valencia County News-Bulletin that he didn't start the program to add punishment to the repeat DWI offenders, but instead to show teens that they face consequences for their actions.

"As a judiciary prevention initiative, we are reaching out to our youth to educate and illuminate the devastating consequences of drinking and driving," Hawkes is quoted saying.

The five offenders who showed up to speak at Belen High School volunteered for the indignity. In exchange, they will get a break on the community service part of their sentences.

Among the defendants was Jeffrey Rael, 38 of Los Lunas. Rael failed three sobriety tests after he was pulled over for driving without his headlights on. The News-Bulletin notes that Rael attended Belen High in the '80s. "How I wish I could go back and do things over again and make the right decisions. There's an epidemic out there, and people are getting killed."

Hawkes may get some powerful support as he pushes to take the program to other jurisdictions. In the audience last week was Edward Chavez, chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Chavez told the paper he was impressed with the program and the message it sends to the community.

"Students go to school, so they don't get a chance to attend court proceedings and see what the legal consequences are for drinking and driving," Justice Chavez is quoted saying. "I know that we talk day in and day out about what the dangers are and see lives change and people killed as a result of this, but they don't see what the legal consequences are and how it affects them as a person, their job and their families."

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