ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Albuquerque man who police said has been wreaking havoc on the roads and racking up one DWI arrest after another for more than a decade has a knack for catching big breaks.
Daniel Aragon, 32, has been arrested and charged for drunk driving seven times - but according to court records he only has one conviction to his name.
"This is clearly the exception. Clearly," said Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg.
Brandenburg said Aragon isn't your average DWI suspect and his actions over the last decade have been dangerous.
In September 2003, police said Aragon was drunk and going 80 mph on a residential street in Northwest Albuquerque. The report states Aragon clipped two trees, a lamp post and neighborhood sign, before crashing into a cinder block wall. The truck he was driving landed sideways inside the house. Luckily, no one was injured. According to court files, the case was dismissed.
In May 2003, Aragon was arrested for going 91 mph through a DWI checkpoint on Paseo del Norte. He blew more than a 0.16 on a breathalyzer. The case was dismissed.
In November 2012, state police clocked Aragon going 111 mph, double the speed limit on Highway 599. He told officer he'd had one beer but failed field sobriety tests and blew a 0.12. The charge has been dismissed, while the Santa Fe County District Attorney's Office tries to build a case against him.
Aragon's one conviction came in July 2002, where police said he was caught speeding on Coors and Paseo del Norte after he'd been drinking. According to court records, Aragon took a plea deal, admitting he was guilty of DWI in the July case in exchange for having an earlier April 2002 DWI case dismissed.
Brandenburg said her office won't know for sure why Aragon's earlier cases have been dismissed because files are destroyed after 10 years. But she said the state was forced to dismiss in most of Aragon's cases because it didn't have a critical witness to prove in court he was actually driving drunk.
Brandenburg said the critical witness in DWI cases is always the arresting officer.
"Whenever a witness didn't show up or there was any kind of issue, it would simply be dismissed because the state's not prepared because we can't go forward without an essential witness," Brandenburg said.
Often times, officers have reasons to be a no-show. For example, the officer in Aragon's third drunk driving arrest, where he blew through the DWI checkpoint, kept missing hearings because he got called out to work the State Fair, then the Balloon Fiesta. Ultimately, the case was dismissed for a "lack of prosecution."
"One year, we went through about 80 cases that we lost because of the Balloon Festival," Brandenburg said.
But officers' hands are tied too.
"The officer can only be in one place at one time," APD DWI Sgt. Zak Cottrell said. "We've done our job, we've got them off the street, but they keep re-offending so it gets very frustrating for officers to keep seeing the same people over and over again."
Sgt. Cottrell said what's worse is someone like Aragon won't face felony DWI charges anytime soon. Even if the Santa Fe County DA re-files charges against Aragon for his November 2012 DWI arrest, which is his seventh, the best prosecutors will get is a second conviction, which is a misdemeanor that only carries a maximum of six months behind bars. In New Mexico, it takes four DWI convictions for someone to be charged with a felony.
But prosecutors are hopeful that whenever Aragon is convicted of DWI again, the judge will know his number of convictions don't tell the whole story.
"A judge is going to look at this and probably say you know what, I'm going to give you the most I can because you haven't learned anything. You keep driving drunk," Brandenburg said.
News 13 tried to reach Daniel Aragon again and again for comment on this story, but he never got back to us.
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