This is an overview of DWI offenses and penalties in New Hampshire. It is not entirely comprehensive or intended as direct advice. Contact our office immediately if you or a loved one need DWI-related representation. Our Portsmouth criminal defense attorneys have defended thousands of clients against criminal charges. We work throughout the seacoast area and are available to travel elsewhere in the State. If you are facing New Hampshire DWI charges, we have over 30 years of combined experience with what you are going through.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is one of the most common crimes. It also carries many mandatory minimum penalties and, combined with additional DWIs or other motor vehicle convictions, can contribute to habitual offender status — which can lead to additional penalties. If you have been driving for more than a few years, chances are that you have seen somebody being arrested for DWI or performing roadside field sobriety exercises. And almost everyone knows at least one person who has been charged or convicted of DWI whether it be friends, family members, or somebody from a professional relationship. Each year thousands of everyday citizens including students, doctors, athletes, law enforcement personnel, and even lawyers may find themselves spending a night in jail courtesy of DWI laws.
Federal funding and powerful lobbies have made DWI arrests one of the most expensive crimes for both the accused and law enforcement. Updated breath test machines such as the Intoxilyzer 9000 manufactured by CMI, Inc. are now required in many states due to exposed flaws in previous models. In New Hampshire, the legal limit of breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) is .02 if you are under 21 years old and .08 if you are 21 or older. New Hampshire RSA 265-A:2 is the statute laying out how one commits DWI.
It is important to understand that prescription and recreational drugs may form the basis for any DWI charge independently, or together with, alcohol consumption.
It is also important to know that DWI laws apply to OHRVs and boating in New Hampshire. For example, the mandatory minimum sentence for a first offense DWI carries a one-year motorboat operating prohibition (RSA 265-A:20).
Field sobriety exercises have been used to guide police officers' roadside arrest decisions since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started studies in the 1980s. In 2006, NHTSA published its Student Manual, which was updated in subsequent years, most recently in 2018. We keep up-to-date on these changes. For example, the original instructor manual mandated an actual line be used in the walk and turn exercise, where recent updates allow for an imaginary line.
Three standardized tests or exercises are typically conducted roadside: horizontal gaze nystagmus, walk and turn, and one leg stand. Each exercise has a built-in rate error rate. Your attorney's trial experience and knowledge of the NHTSA manual is important to assess and defend DWI cases because field sobriety exercises comprise such a large portion of the government's evidence.
New Hampshire courts require strict adherence to these procedures in order for the results to be admissible in court. You need to have an attorney on your side who knows the manual and is prepared to find flaws in the procedures of the field sobriety exercises. Further, the test results of roadside exercises, breath, or blood are only a portion of the evidence the government may use against you. Observations of driving, speech, motor function, and divided-attention tasks are a few ways the government assembles evidence against allegedly impaired drivers.
There are very limited circumstances when a driver may be required by law to submit to a blood or breath test such as when there is an accident involving death or life-threatening injury. In all other cases, such testing is optional, but the driver's choice carries with it significant consequences. For example, you face Administrative License Suspension (ALS) if you refuse the breath test.
The most serious drunk driving-related charges include negligent homicide, which can be charged when someone is killed because of negligent operation of an automobile. If you are charged with negligent homicide and were allegedly driving under the influence, you face a Class A felony which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.
At Reis and O’Keefe, we have over 30 years of combined experience with DWI cases. Attorney O’Keefe has been passionate about justice in DWI cases from the beginning of his career: his first four jury trials were three DWI cases and one reckless driving charge. All of these were punishable by six months incarceration and each client was acquitted. We take every DWI charge seriously — and you should too.
In New Hampshire, a first offense, non-aggravated DWI does not carry jail time but carries significant financial penalties such as increased insurance costs with an SR-22, mandatory treatment, and court fines. DWIs also have other consequences including job loss, strained family relations, and damaged community reputation. Even if you don’t face jail time, take the time to consult an attorney immediately.
Learn more below about the serious consequences of a DWI conviction in New Hampshire. For experienced, personal representation in DWI cases, contact the Portsmouth DWI defense attorneys of Reis & O'Keefe for a free consultation.