By Ryan Boetel
AZTEC—A Bloomfield man who had been convicted of eight previous DWIs was found not guilty on Thursday of his ninth drinking and driving charge.
Incarcerated for 10 months awaiting trial, Jose Valencia, 53, was released from jail Thursday after his two-hour trial.
"My client was pleased with the outcome," Arlon Stoker, Valencia's attorney, said. "I had a very good jury who were very conscientious and did a good job of following the law."
Valencia was arrested Dec. 14, 2011, after he crashed his vehicle near the 131 mile marker on U.S. 550.
The road was icy and Valencia was complaining of soreness, so the state police officer who responded didn't do a field sobriety test, according to court documents.
The officer performed an eye test on Valencia and found signs of impairment, he detected a minor alcohol smell on Valencia and the officer did a preliminary blood-alcohol test, which showed Valencia had a .13 blood-alcohol content, according to court documents.
When Valencia's blood-alcohol content was recorded at the jail, about two hours and 30 minutes after the crash, it registered .06, which is under the legal limit.
People who are under the legal limit can still be convicted of DWI in New Mexico if the prosecution proves alcohol or drugs impaired their driving.
Steven Johnston, who prosecuted the case, told the jury to consider that Valencia's blood-alcohol content must have been higher than .06 at the time of the crash.
The argument didn't sway the jury, who deliberated for 25 minutes befo¼re returning with a verdict.
Stoker successfully argued that Valencia slid off the road because of the conditions, not alcohol.
"The officer admitted that you don't have to be drinking to slide off that road," Stoker said.
New Mexico police Sgt. Micah Doering, who responded to the crash, was the only person who testified at the trial.
The jury didn't hear about Valencia's previous DWI convictions, which were not admissible in court. The jury also never heard of the preliminary blood-alcohol test that was taken at the scene of the crash and about the failed eye test because the state didn't provide a medical expert to testify about the validity of the test, Stoker said.
Valencia was held on a $70,000 bail because of his criminal history. All of his requests for furloughs and bail reductions were denied. He was granted work release in June by District Judge John Dean, who ruled over the trial on Thursday.
Stoker said Valencia likely won't file a lawsuit because of the months he spent in jail.