On Friday, June 30, 2019, State Senator Richard Martinez was arrested for suspected drunk driving. Police reported that Martinez admitted to drinking after rear-ending a car in Espanola. A driver told police Martinez rear-ended him at a red light at Paseo de Onate and Fairview Lane in Espanola late at night. The arresting officer said he could smell alcohol coming from Martinez’s car and that when he asked Martinez how much he’s had to drink, Martinez changed his story a few times.
The incident report said the state senator failed field sobriety tests and while being booked into jail, he told officers in part “are you serious,” and refused to take a breath test. According to the incident report, he first said that he had one or two beers. He then said that it might have been more than that then claiming he “actually drank three glasses of wine.”
FOUND GUILTY; URGED TO RESIGN
On December 17, after a two-day bench trial, Senator Richard Martinez was found guilty of aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving. According to news reports, he will be sentenced on January 7, 2020 and he faces a minimum sentence of 7 days in jail and a maximum of 180 days in jail.
Senator Richard Martinez has said he will not resign and will seek reelection next year. While attending a legislative hearing in Los Alamos, he was asked if he plans to remain in the Legislature and he responded:
“Of course. I have no intention to resign and I’m running for reelection, too.”
After the verdict was announced, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham urged Martinez to resign and issued the following statement:
“As I said at the time of this incident, Senator Martinez was obligated to reflect on his actions and how best to reconcile them with his position as a public servant in the state Legislature, in particular his status as chairman of an influential committee. The senator’s defense of himself does not suggest to me that any such personal reckoning has taken place – and given the judge’s unambiguous ruling this afternoon, I urge him to resign his seat. There is no way to square the circle: Drunken driving is an intolerable scourge in our state, and our elected leaders must hold themselves to the highest possible standard of behavior.”
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe and Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces said in a statement that they will recommend that Martinez no longer serve as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and issued the following statement:
“Whether or not Senator Martinez continues to serve in the Senate will be left for Senator Martinez and the voters in his district to decide. … Now that the court has made its decision, the time has come for the New Mexico State Senate to take appropriate action. Based on the court’s ruling today, we will be recommending to the Committee’s Committee when it meets in January that Senator Martinez not continue to serve as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
When Senator Richard Martinez was first arrested for his DWI, Governor Lujan Grisham did not call for Martinez’s resignation but said no one is above the law and that elected officials should be held to a higher standard. The Governor added the longtime lawmaker should think about his position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee as well as the message that the case sends to a community besieged by crime related to alcohol and drugs. She expressed hoped that Martinez “does the right thing.” He has not.
Now that he had been given due process of law and found guilty, Senator Richard Martinez should do the right thing and resign from the State Senate. At a bare minimum, Senator Martinez should be removed immediately as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The 30 New Mexico Legislative session starts in mid-January. An appropriate sentence is 30 days in jail commencing the first day of the legislative session.
A 30-day sentence would send the clear and unmistakable message that no elected official is above the law an certainly not a State Senator who is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a retired Magistrate Judge.