Farmington police say innovative solutions needed to address drunken driving recidivism

Steve Garrison
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Farmington police officials said a 30-year-old man recently arrested on his seventh drunken driving offense in New Mexico is emblematic of a larger problem in San Juan County.

Arrison Parrish has spent more than six of the past 12 years incarcerated on alcohol-related offenses, according to jail records. He has been sentenced by judges to the maximum prison term allowable since being convicted of his fourth drunken driving offense in 2008 and has violated probation on multiple occasions.

Tom Havel, administrator at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center, said it costs the county an average of $66.16 a day to incarcerate an individual at his facility.

By that estimate, Parrish has cost the county almost $74,000 in jail costs alone since he turned 18 years old.

Parrish has further cost the state of New Mexico $159,120, since he was first incarcerated at a state correctional facility in 2008, according to estimates provided by the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

Those figures do not include the costs associated with arrest, adjudication and treatment.

Arrison Parrish declined to comment for this story. His attorney, Ruth Wheeler, also declined to comment.

Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe said that Parrish and other repeat offenders pose a unique challenge for local law enforcement, but addressing that problem would go a long way toward reducing the number of alcohol-related crashes in the county.

He said that the department's RADD program — Report Aggressive and Drunken Drivers — is one way the department is responding to the problem, and drunken driving arrests have increased since the program was created earlier this year.

According to statistics provided by the department, 396 citizens called 911 to report erratic or aggressive driving in October, up from 260 calls in September.

Twenty-two individuals were arrested for drunken driving as a result of community reporting in October, and another 30 individuals were arrested in September.

Hebbe said, however, that it would take more communication and innovative solutions to address the problem in the long term.

"We don't have all the answers to fixing it, and it's not something that the police alone can fix, but we need to keep talking about it," he said.

On Oct. 7, Parrish is alleged to have led local and state police on a high-speed chase from Broadway and Scott avenues in Farmington to a chapter house on County Road 7167.

Parrish exited his vehicle at the chapter house wielding a baseball bat, according to a New Mexico State Police press release, but was subdued by officers armed with stun guns.

Parrish is charged with driving while intoxicated, seventh or subsequent offense, aggravated assault upon a peace officer and aggravated fleeing, among other charges.

New Mexico State Police said Parrish further has two out-of-state drunken driving arrests.

He is currently being held on a $100,000 cash-only bond at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center and faces more than 10 years in prison if convicted on the most recent offenses. He was arraigned in district court on Oct. 10.

A review of Parrish's criminal record by The Daily Times shows that Parrish was arrested on his first drunken driving arrest in November 2002 at age 18.

He spent the next three years in and out of jail after two more arrests, one in March 2003 and another in August 2005. In all three cases, he was arrested and jailed several times for failing to meet the terms of his probation, including attending alcohol treatment classes and performing community service.

He was charged with his first felony drunken driving offense in November 2007.

According to a probable cause statement, police arrested Parrish at about 11 a.m. on Nov. 26, 2007, driving near the intersection of county roads 6500 and 6444. He had a 0.22 blood-alcohol content level at the time of the arrest — more than twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.

Parrish pleaded guilty to fourth-offense drunken driving and driving on a suspended license in February 2008. He received the maximum sentence for drunken driving — 18 months in prison and one year of parole, and an additional year in prison for driving on a suspended license.

According to the New Mexico Department of Corrections, Parrish was released from prison on July 26, 2009. Five days later, he was arrested for his fifth drunken driving offense, as well as obstruction of a police officer.

He was found by police at 12:30 a.m. on July 31, 2009, sitting inside a running vehicle outside an apartment building near 700 E. 17th Street, according to the probable cause statement.

He failed multiple field sobriety tests and was transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center after refusing to perform a breath test.

According to the statement, it took three officers and three hospital staff members to hold Parrish down while a nurse took his blood.

Parrish pleaded guilty in February 2010 and was sentenced to two years in prison and one year of parole, again the maximum sentence.

However, Parrish was released from prison by January 2011, when he was charged with sixth-offense aggravated drunken driving and child abuse, among other, lesser offenses.

Though Parrish received a two-year prison sentence, he served part of the sentence awaiting adjudication and also earned early release for good behavior.

According to the probable cause statement, Parrish was found by police driving a vehicle drunk at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2010, with two adult passengers and a 4-year-old child.

Officers found a nearly empty bottle of vodka near the driver's seat. Parrish failed several field sobriety tests and registered a 0.22 blood-alcohol content on a breath test, according to the statement.

Parrish pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse and aggravated drunken driving in June 2011, and was sentenced to a total of four years in prison and two years of parole. One year of prison was suspended in lieu of probation.

He was briefly released from prison in February 2013, according to the Department of Corrections, but was arrested on a probation violation in March 2013 and ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Arrison Parrish is only one of 126 people charged thus far in 2014 with their fourth or more drunken driving offense in San Juan County.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said it was obvious that Parrish did not learn anything during his periods of incarceration, but he still expects that the state will seek a maximum sentence if he is convicted of his most recent offenses.

"The court will hopefully take him out of the community for as long as possible," he said.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and

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