DWI conviction overturned because prosecutors fail to appear

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Christina Montoya, who is charged with vehicular homicide by DWI in the February 2013 crash that killed her niece, has caught a big break heading into next month’s trial – courtesy of the state.

Montoya, 40, was convicted last December of drunk driving in a separate rollover crash, but in June, Montoya won her appeal after Valencia County District Court Judge James Sanchez dismissed the case because prosecutors failed to show up to the trial.

On Feb. 16, 2013, Isleta Police arrested Montoya on I-25 near Los Lunas for aggravated DWI after she rolled her car. Belen Magistrate Judge Phillip Romero convicted Montoya of DWI, which she quickly appealed.

Two weeks before that crash, Montoya and her 19-year-old niece, Starr Olsen, were on their way to El Paso, Texas, from Albuquerque, when Montoya’s car veered off on I-25 about 20 miles south of Truth or Consequences. Olsen was killed instantly.

Montoya was flown to University Medical Center in El Paso after complaining of back pain. Once inside the helicopter, emergency personnel smelled alcohol on Montoya, but it was too late to conduct field sobriety tests, according to New Mexico State Police Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez.

According to an affidavit, Montoya waived her rights to release her medical records, which showed Montoya had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 hours after the crash. In March, more than a year after the crash, state police charged Montoya with the girl’s death.

Starr’s mother, Antoinette Sena, was gearing up for the August trial when she learned a judge overturned Montoya’s DWI conviction from the February 16, 2013 crash.

“It’s just been devastating since hearing the news,” said Sena. “There’s so many lives being lost, and everyone should be doing their part to make sure these cases are prosecuted.”

Valencia County District Attorney Lemuel Martinez said his office never received notice of the June 18 appeal trial. Judge Sanchez’s office disagreed, saying it gave the district attorney a week’s notice. Martinez has since filed a motion to reconsider the case. Judge Sanchez is expected to hear the motion on Thursday, July 24. Martinez declined to comment on-camera until after the judge makes his decision.

If convicted in the vehicular homicide case, Montoya was facing up to 10 years in prison because she had a DWI conviction on her record. If her appeal stands, the maximum sentence she could face is six years, under New Mexico law.

Sena said the state’s actions are unacceptable.

“I am living with a life sentence everyday, waking up without my daughter,” Sena said. “There’s no excuse for the district attorney and for whoever else to not show for that appeal date. It’s so important.”

Calls and emails to Montoya’s attorney were not returned.

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