In addition to putting yourself and others in danger, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have serious legal consequences in both criminal court and with the Division of Motor Vehicles. Even an arrest for this offense will impact your driver’s license and ability to operate a motor vehicle or boat in the short-term and potentially for years.
This post will outline some of the criminal and administrative consequences of a DWI arrest in New Hampshire and possible recourse if you are arrested for this offense.
After an arrest for DWI in New Hampshire your license can be suspended or revoked by the Division of Motor Vehicles without even being convicted of any additional charges. This is called an “Administrative License Suspension.”
New Hampshire is an “implied consent” state meaning that if you drive on a public road or way, you impliedly consent to taking a breath alcohol test, if requested. Therefore, if you are arrested for DWI and refuse to take a breath test when requested by police or the results of the test are over the legal limit of .08, the Division of Motor Vehicles will take your license for at least 180 days. If you have a prior conviction for DWI on your record or a prior refusal to take a breath test, then the DMV will suspend or revoke your license and privilege to drive in New Hampshire for 2 years.
You have a chance to appeal this suspension to the DMV but it must be done within 30 days of the arrest or notice of license suspension. The request for a hearing must be in writing to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Hearings Bureau. The Hearings Bureau has created an online form to request this hearing, which can be found on their website at: https://business.nh.gov/NCharge/Safety-Hearings/default.asp?form_name=suspension-hearing
These hearings are usually scheduled for 30 minutes. At this hearing, the hearing examiner will not make a ruling or determine if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of your arrest. Their responsibility is to determine whether the officer had enough evidence to suspect that you might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and whether they properly advised you regarding the consequences of refusing the breath test.
These hearings tend to be more technical than a district court trial. I would suggest that you consult with and hire an attorney to represent you in this process. An attorney who knows the law and process has a better chance of having the administrative license suspension dismissed. At the very least, the attorney can ask the officer involved in the arrest questions at the hearing to discover the weaknesses in the state’s case for use in the underlying criminal charge.
Separate from the administrative process through the DMV, a DWI arrest will also require you to be charged with the crime in district court.
A first offense DWI is a class B misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a class B misdemeanor is a $1,200 fine (no jail time). The minimum penalties for this offense under the law (New Hampshire RSA 265-A: 18) are,
The minimum amount of time on the license loss can be reduced by 6 months if the driver completes the drug and alcohol abuse screen and impaired driver education program within 30 days of conviction. If this occurs, the Court may require the driver to install an interlock device during the period of time when the license suspension was reduced.
The Court may also require a person to submit to random drug and alcohol screenings under the terms of a criminal sentence.
After one year, a person can ask the Court to reduce their sentence from a misdemeanor to a violation level offense. A violation level offense is considered civil in nature and only carries the risk of having to pay a fine. In order to make this decision, the Court will look at the driver’s record since the conviction, the recommendations of the drug and alcohol screenings, the hardship that a criminal conviction may cause a person and any other factor that it deems relevant. A DWI charge cannot be removed from a person’s criminal record until 10 years after the date of conviction.
The penalties increase for DWI’s when it is a second offense (within 10 years of the first offense) or it is charged as an aggravated offense because other dangerous conditions exist at the time of the arrest.
Being arrested for DWI can have severe consequences even before a conviction on the charge. If you are arrested for a DWI, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately to protect your rights and start to fight for your license back.
Author: David C. Tencza
This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.