Taos man charged with DWI picks up drug trafficking charges

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Hendrix Caje Johnston was driving through Ranchos de Taos on Monday (July 3) when a New Mexico State Police officer pulled him over for allegedly speeding and crossing traffic lines. Police say Johnston was first charged with DWI after failing a sobriety test, but after a search warrant approved for the driver's vehicle led officers to allegedly discover narcotics, multiple felony charges were added to the suspect's rap sheet.

Police say Johnston, 25, is a Taos County resident. He was stopped by New Mexico State Police Officer Cruzita Romero around 4 p.m. while traveling along State Road 68. The officer stated that she drove alongside Johnston's blue Toyota Camry, prompting Johnston to speed up and pull ahead. The officer writes in a criminal complaint that she could see the suspect switching lanes and following a vehicle "too close." According to the radar in the officer's vehicle, Romero writes that the suspect was traveling at 63 miles per hour in the 45-mile-per-hour traffic zone.

According to the complaint, Johnston pulled over to the shoulder on Este Es Road. When he exited the vehicle at the officer's request, Romero noted a "strong odor" of marijuana that seemed to be coming from inside the vehicle. She also wrote that Johnston's eyes were "red" and that he appeared "sluggish." The suspect allegedly admitted to having smoked marijuana, but said that he had only done so that morning. He also allegedly stated that there was marijuana inside the vehicle.

Johnston agreed to take a sobriety test, which the officer said allowed them to determine that "Mr. Johnston appeared to be impaired and unable to safely operate the vehicle." The suspect was immediately arrested for DWI.

Upon further inspection of the vehicle, the officer said she could see drug paraphernalia in a center console and called for the vehicle to be towed to the New Mexico State Police office in Taos. A request for a search warrant was submitted and approved, leading officers to allegedly discover "containers and bags consistent with the trafficking of narcotics, as well as scales, devices commonly used for the production of narcotics, and other drug paraphernalia." Police also claimed to have located heroin and methamphetamine, leading to additional drug possession charges - both felonies. The presence of the drugs, however, has not been confirmed.

Elizabeth Armijo, a New Mexico State Police public information officer, said that officers determined that the other substances were likely heroin and methamphetamine through initial field tests, "thus giving [probable] cause for those charges," she said. As of Friday (July 7), however, the alleged narcotics had not been submitted to the state's crime laboratory for "further, specific testing," she said.

While the initial tests may have provided probable cause to levy the charges, a failure to send drugs to the lab in a "timely manner" can lead to charges being dismissed. Such was the result in one of Johnston's prior cases from 2016. This year, a fourth-degree felony drug possession charge stemming from the prior case was dropped "on the grounds that the drugs in this matter were not sent to the State Crime Lab in a timely fashion," court records state. The decision on the matter came less than one month ago on June 14. Prior to the charge, Johnston's record appeared to include only minor traffic violations, according to New Mexico court records.

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