FARMINGTON — Farmington police said a man was arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of at least his eighth DWI.

Police said Lester Begay, 47, has been arrested for DWI 12 times and convicted of the charge at least seven times. His entire record was not immediately clear because some of the incidents happened in other states and some are pending, officials said.

Begay was arrested near 2300 West Main St. Wednesday morning, Farmington police Lt. Taft Tracy said.

Begay was buying gas at the 7-2-11 station on 4300 West Main St. at 8:35 a.m. when a store clerk called police and said Begay was staggering and slurring his words while paying, he said.

He allegedly left the store in his vehicle and a police officer spotted Begay and pulled him over.

Begay immediately got out of his blue Ford Bronco. When the officer asked him why he got out of his vehicle Begay told him, "Because I'm going to jail," Tracy said.

Tracy said Begay was swaying and had slurred speech, bloodshot, watery eyes and had urinated on himself. There were empty Budweiser cans in his vehicle. A preliminary blood-alcohol-content test registered 0.23, which is nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

Begay was charged with third-degree felony driving while intoxicated.

DWIs become third-degree felonies at the sixth conviction, which are punishable by up to 30 months in prison. A seventh DWI conviction carries up to a three-year prison sentence, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said.


All subsequent DWI convictions after seven are also third-degree felonies and carry the same sentence.

Begay was also charged Wednesday with driving with an open container, driving on a suspended or revoked driver's license and driving without insurance or registration. He has listed addresses in Arizona and Gallup and it doesn't appear all of his DWIs were in New Mexico, Tracy said.

He was charged with felony DWIs in New Mexico in 2004, 2007 and 2012. His most recent DWI arrest in New Mexico was in Gallup in August 2012.

Begay had a pretrial conference for that DWI last Thursday in Gallup. He is scheduled to go to trial in March, according to a state court website.

Begay owned the car he was driving but its registration expired in February 2004, Tracy said.

Tracy credited the store clerk who called police when Begay showed signs of being intoxicated. He said if people suspect a person to be driving drunk they can call the DWI tip line, non-emergency dispatch or even 911.

"It was a very good job on the part of the (gas station) staff for observing that and calling us. It's very good when the local businesses see that and call us," Tracy said. "The public plays a huge role in getting these types of offenders off the street."