New Mexico v. RiveraAnnotate this Case
Defendant Zirachuen Rivera drove through a DWI checkpoint in Bernalillo County and an officer suspected he had been drinking alcohol. Defendant showed signs of impairment on the standard field sobriety tests and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Defendant’s bench trial began in Metropolitan Court where assistant district attorney Rachel Bayless entered an appearance for both herself and Chris Mills, a purported attorney, on behalf of the State. At the conclusion of trial, Defendant was found guilty of driving while intoxicated. Upon leaving the courtroom, defense counsel overheard Mills telling Bayless that he had decided not to take the New Mexico bar exam. Upon learning that Mills was not a licensed New Mexico attorney, Defendant filed a motion for a mistrial and a new trial. Defendant later attached a certificate from the Chief Clerk of the New Mexico Supreme Court to affirm that Mills was not on the official roll of New Mexico attorneys.In its opinion in this case, the Supreme Court clarified the rules and judicial precedent pertaining to the authorized practice of law in all state courts. The Court held that practice is limited to "duly licensed attorneys who are members of the State Bar or otherwise authorized by this Court’s rules in specific, limited circumstances." Because the Court of Appeals relied on statutory expressions that appeared to permit the unauthorized practice of law in magistrate courts, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals while affirming Defendant's conviction.