The New Mexico Court of Appeals held that a Navajo Police Officer's DWI stop of a motorist in the Gallup city limits was reasonable under New Mexico law. The Court reasoned that state law did not prohibit the Navajo Police Officer from making a DWI stop off of the Navajo reservation. The Court affirmed the district court's denial of the defendant's motion to suppress. State v. Martinez, 2005-NMCA-052; cert. denied.
McKinley County had cross-commissioned the Navajo Officer. The officer was in an area outside of his regular patrol. He witnessed erratic driving and initiated a stop of the vehicle. Once the tribal officer made the stop and an initial assessment of the driver he called for assistance from a McKinley County deputy, who completed the DWI investigation and arrested the defendant.
The defendant argued that a state statue, which precludes the New Mexico State Police from cross-commissioning tribal officers for law enforcement activities in Gallup, and other select locales, deprived the Navajo officer of any authority in the City of Gallup. NMSA 1978, Sec. 29-1-11(C)(8). The defendant did not argue on appeal that McKinley County lacked the authority to cross-commission tribal officers.
Despite the language in the statute that prohibits the state police from cross-commissioning tribal officers to enforce state laws in Gallup, the Court of Appeals found that the statute did not divest the tribal officer of the authority to stop a vehicle violating traffic laws in the City of Gallup. The Court agreed that the statute did not alter the McKinley County commission to the officer. The obvious question left open is whether McKinley County has the authority to cross-commission officers. The Court seemed troubled by the cross-commission, but held that the defendant had not raised the issue on appeal