Emerging Scandal: An Investigation Into The Albuquerque DWI Unit

The Investigation Into Albuquerque Police

The investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) DWI Unit has led to significant repercussions, particularly with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office dismissing nearly 40 more cases. These dismissals are a direct outcome of the FBI’s investigation into allegations that members of the APD’s DWI Unit were involved in misconduct, specifically getting paid to dismiss cases. Notably, the dismissed cases include charges against repeat DWI offenders and are not limited to drunk driving offenses but also encompass other criminal activities such as aggravated fleeing from an officer and drug possession.

Credibility Of Cases Have Been Compromised

The credibility of the officers involved in these cases has been severely compromised, leading to the dismissal of nearly 200 DWI cases by the Bernalillo County DA’s Office. This situation has been described as a “gut punch” by District Attorney Sam Bregman, who expressed his dismay, stating that his “prosecutorial ethics require me to dismiss these cases.” Among the officers on paid administrative leave is Nelson Ortiz, who in 2019 arrested Fernando Ornelas for what would have been his 8th DWI offense. The gravity of these charges meant that a conviction could have led to at least a decade of imprisonment for Ornelas.

Another case that was dismissed involved Rayburn Apache, whose fourth DWI arrest in 2016 resulted from crashing a stolen truck into three vehicles, including a police cruiser. Despite Apache’s history and the danger, he posed, as highlighted by APD in 2016, his fifth DWI arrest was also dismissed by the DA’s Office. The dismissals are not confined to new arrests; they also include cases where suspects had previously pleaded guilty to DWI charges, with these dismissals occurring as recently as the last month and dating back to cases from 2015.

So far, none of the officers under investigation have been charged with a crime. However, the impact of this investigation has been profound, with the dismissal of a significant number of cases and the questioning of the integrity and credibility of the DWI Unit’s operations. This scandal underscores the critical importance of ethical conduct and accountability within law enforcement agencies, particularly those tasked with enforcing DUI laws, which are vital for public safety.

How Were They Getting Paid?

The available information from the investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) DWI Unit does not provide explicit details on the exact mechanisms or methods used by members of the unit to allegedly receive payments for dismissing cases. The investigation, led by the FBI, centers around serious accusations that certain officers within the APD’s DWI Unit were engaged in corrupt practices, specifically receiving financial incentives or other forms of compensation in exchange for influencing the outcome of DWI cases.

The ongoing investigation and subsequent legal proceedings will likely aim to uncover the specifics of these transactions, including how payments were arranged and executed, the individuals involved, and the extent of the corruption within the DWI Unit. This process involves meticulous examination of financial records, communications, and testimonies to piece together the activities leading to these unethical practices. The outcomes of such investigations are crucial for restoring public trust, ensuring accountability, and implementing necessary reforms to prevent future misconduct within the police department.

How Was Thomas Clear III Involved In This?

Thomas Clear III, a defense attorney, played a significant role in the Albuquerque Police Department’s DWI Unit scandal, primarily due to his exceptionally high rate of getting DWI cases dismissed. Clear was renowned for his effectiveness in handling DWI cases, commanding higher fees for his services. A detailed analysis of cases over a decade revealed that Clear’s dismissal rate in DWI cases nearly doubled when the cases were handled by a specific group of DWI officers within the Albuquerque Police Department. This pattern raised suspicions and led to further scrutiny.

The relationship between Clear and these officers was marked by an unusually high dismissal rate, nearly 9 out of 10 times when they were involved in the same case, suggesting an almost guaranteed win for Clear’s clients. The investigation uncovered over 100 DWI cases that seemed to follow a pattern where these officers would fail to fulfill their duties effectively, almost exclusively when Clear was the defense attorney. This pattern of behavior included missing pretrial interviews, failing to provide discovery, and not meeting court deadlines, leading to case dismissals.

A Raid Was Conducted On His Home

The FBI’s investigation into this matter gained momentum following raids on Clear’s law office and the homes of his paralegal and three APD officers. Despite the ongoing investigation and no public charges or arrests, the federal scrutiny focuses on alleged misconduct by specific APD officers and others, with Clear at the center of these allegations. The investigation’s secrecy aims to preserve its integrity and ensure accountability for those involved.

Clear’s reputation was built on his high dismissal rates and his perceived close relationships with officers, raising concerns among other defense attorneys and prompting questions about the pattern of dismissals. The situation highlights the complexities of legal defense, ethical boundaries, and the importance of transparency and accountability within the justice system, particularly in cases involving potential collusion between defense attorneys and law enforcement officers.

Justin Hunt Resigns During Investigation

Justin Hunt was identified as a lieutenant within the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), specifically mentioned in the context of an investigation into alleged misconduct within the APD’s DWI Unit. This unit came under scrutiny due to a pattern of unusually high dismissal rates of DWI cases, particularly those connected to defense attorney Thomas Clear III and certain officers within the unit, including Hunt. The investigation focused on potential collusion and unethical practices that could undermine the integrity of law enforcement and the judicial process.

The details provided do not explicitly cover the circumstances surrounding Justin Hunt’s resignation, leaving it shrouded in mystery and open to speculation. In situations where a law enforcement officer resigns amid an ongoing investigation into departmental misconduct, such a departure can raise questions and concerns. It might prompt the public and the department itself to speculate about the reasons behind the resignation and its timing in relation to the investigation.

How His Resignation May Look To Others

Resignations under such circumstances can be interpreted in various ways. They might be seen as an attempt to avoid further scrutiny or as a personal decision driven by the pressures associated with being under investigation. Alternatively, they could be viewed as a step taken for the greater good of the department, aiming to minimize distractions and allow the organization to focus on restoring its integrity and public trust.

The lack of transparency and detailed information regarding Hunt’s resignation only adds to the mystery and underscores the importance of clear communication and accountability within law enforcement agencies. In the absence of concrete information, the public is left to conjecture about the nature of the resignation and its implications for the ongoing investigation and the overall reputation of the APD.

For law enforcement agencies, handling such situations with transparency and providing as much information as possible, within the limits of legal and procedural constraints, is crucial. It helps to address public concerns, maintain trust, and demonstrate a commitment to accountability and ethical conduct, especially in cases that attract significant public and media attention.

Some Charges That Could Be Pressed

If charges were brought against some officers and the defense attorney involved in the Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) DWI Unit scandal, they might face different types of legal accusations based on what exactly they did wrong.


If it’s found that officers received financial incentives or other benefits in exchange for dismissing DWI cases or otherwise manipulating case outcomes, charges of bribery could be appropriate. Bribery involves offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value as a means of influencing the actions of an official in the discharge of their public or legal duties.

Obstruction of Justice

Should evidence emerge that officers or others involved acted to intentionally obstruct, impede, or interfere with the administration of justice, such as tampering with evidence, influencing witnesses, or hindering the investigation process, charges of obstruction of justice could be pursued.


If multiple individuals collaborated to engage in misconduct or criminal activities, they could face charges of conspiracy, which involves an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime or to accomplish a legal end through illegal actions.


If any deceptive practices were used to unjustly gain a benefit or advantage, such as falsifying records or providing false information, charges related to fraud could be considered.

Official Misconduct

This charge can be brought against public officials who fail to perform their duties with the honesty, integrity, and impartiality expected of them, especially if their actions or omissions are intended to benefit themselves or others improperly.

Civil Rights Violations

In cases where the misconduct involved the infringement of individuals’ rights under the law, charges related to civil rights violations might be applicable, especially if the actions of the officers or others involved resulted in unjust treatment or discrimination.

It’s important to note that the specific charges would depend on the findings of the investigation, including the actions of each individual involved and the laws applicable to those actions. Legal proceedings would need to carefully consider the evidence and the context of the alleged misconduct to determine the most appropriate charges to ensure justice and accountability.

Need Help? Call Us Now!

Do not forget that when you or anyone you know is facing a criminal charge, you have us, the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, by your side to help you build the best defense case for you. We will work and be in your best interest for you and we will obtain the best possible outcome that can benefit you. We can explain everything you need to know about your trial and how to defend your case best.

Our team is here to explain your trial, guiding you through the criminal justice process with clarity and support every step of the way. If you’re navigating the complexities of criminal charges and the court system seems daunting, reach out.

Therefore, do not hesitate to call us if you find yourself or someone you know that is facing criminal charges unsure about the court system. We will work with you to give you the best type of defense that can help you solve your case. It is vital to have someone explain the result of the charge to you and guide you in the best possible way.

Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we have professional and knowledgeable criminal law attorneys who are experienced in building a defense case for you that suits your needs for the best possible outcome that can benefit you.  

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