‘Courts to School’ program brings harsh reality of DWI to New Mexico schools

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A program aimed at showing teenagers the harsh reality of DWI through real-life court proceedings is now expanding to more schools throughout the state.

The Courts to School program has been bringing the courtroom to high schools to give students a hard dose of reality on the consequences of drinking and driving.

At the assembly last week, hundreds of students filled Santa Fe High School’s Gymnasium to attend the program that the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office has been putting on for three years now.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the NMOAG Traffic Safety Resource Prosecution Unit was established by Hector Balderas through grant funding awarded by NMDOT in 2015. One of the services that the TSRPU provides is training, education, and awareness of the effects and consequences of DWI. As as a result, the Courts to School Program was established.

It has since expanded to schools in northern New Mexico.

Courts to School is a public outreach program that has been transforming performing arts centers and gymnasiums into courtrooms, complete with lawyers, a judge, a defendant, even bailiffs and probation officers.

Each session includes the sentencing of a convicted defendant, who has agreed to participate in the presentation and share their experience.

“Getting this DWI has been hard not only on me but my family as well. I have a 2-year-old son that I want to be there for and be a good role model. I now have to leave him and his mother to spend 30 days in jail,” said the defendant who asked to remain anonymous.

After the defendants address the students, they’re taken away in handcuffs and transferred to the Santa Fe County Detention Center.

AG officials says their hope is that the personal statement made by the defendant will show students the lasting impact of getting caught driving while under the influence has on them and their loved ones.

That’s one part of the presentation that really hit home for students.

“The fact that he has to sit there and think for 30 days what he did, what he can do better, and what he should’ve done is a little sad because he could’ve prevented himself from everything that he has to go through now,” said high school senior Haylie Lopez.

They also hope this will encourage students to stay safe and make good decisions the next time they come face to face with alcohol.

“Getting a DWI is going to be really hard because then it holds it against you especially if you want to get a job or something. People are always going to hold that against you and ask you and it’s embarrassing,” said high school senior Victor Salcido.

The Attorney General’s Office says they’re also hoping to do this at two more schools before the end of the school year. Their goal is to reach four to five schools a year.

They’re now working on reaching schools in the southeastern and western parts of the state.

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