DWI Defined

When stopped by a police officer or state trooper, they must explain why they pulled the driver over. If assessment is being done for DWI (either roadside or back at the police station) they will offer sobriety tests, which include:

  • Breathalyzer
  • Blood test
  • Urine test
  • Balance tests

By accepting a driver’s license in New Hampshire, new drivers are subject to implied consent. This means the individual who possesses the license has agreed to take the field sobriety tests if asked to do so. If a person refuses to take the field sobriety test, there is an automatic license suspension of 180 days.

Assuming sobriety tests were taken and failed, the officer will use the results to bring about DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) charges. If the measured BAC (blood alcohol content) is over .08 then the legal limit for driving has been surpassed. However, if the BAC is under .08, the officer can still make an arrest for DWI if he or she believes driving skills are influenced.

Affected driving schools include but are not limited to:

  • Driving too slow or too fast
  • Running over the curb
  • Straddling lanes
  • Passing improperly
  • Starting the vehicle with a jerk

Commercial Drivers

The rules for commercial drivers are more aggressive due to the responsibility and risk while driving a big rig are usually greater than that of a regular Class D car, truck, or SUV. While operating a commercial vehicle, one should be familiar with the FMCSA Rules regarding alcohol and commercial drivers.

A commercial driver can expect any trooper, DOT official, or police officer to be very upset if found to have any alcohol in their blood. In fact, commercial drivers can be temporarily taken off the road with a .02 BAC.

Drivers under 21

Though drivers must be 21 to purchase or transport alcohol, some drivers are arrested for DWI who are not over 21 years old. The BAC rule for drivers under 21 years old is not .08 but a much less tolerant .02.

Driving under the influence of drugs may not be as easily detected because there is no alcohol to be measured on the driver’s breath. However, the urine or blood test can be used to detect drug levels.

When you think about drugs and driving you need to consider over the counter medications or prescribed drugs that might influence your driving skills. Some cold medications, antidepressants, and other drugs will make drivers sleepy and strongly decrease reaction times.

Before driving, be conscious of ingested medications and be sure to read the warnings. Many drugs can hamper safe driving habits; don’t just think of illegal substances like marijuana or cocaine.

License Suspension, Fines, and Consequences

Penalties for DWI may include:

  • Fines.
  • License suspension.
  • Jail sentence.
  • Mandatory attendance in an alcohol treatment program.
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device.

Here are the consequences for not taking a breathalyzer or blood test in New Hampshire, broken out by whether this is your first, second, or third offense:

1st offense: 180 day license suspension

2nd offense: 2 year license suspension

3rd offense: 2 year license suspension

Here are the minimum jail times for a DUI in New Hampshire, broken down by first, second, or third offense:

1st offense: No minimum required jail term

2nd offense: If second offense is within 2 years of first offense: 37 days jail. If second offense is within 10 years of first offense: 10 days jail

3rd offense: 180 days jail

Appeals and Hearings

There is always the right to a hearing from the Department of Safety Bureau of Hearings. Applying for an appeal is a process that can take time as the Vehicle Code can be complicated. It is highly encouraged to hire an attorney. There are many good lawyers who specialize in DWI cases.

Driver’s License Reinstatement

After the suspension period has passed, requirements for auto insurance have been met, and any jail time or alcohol treatment has been completed, it is then possible to apply for a license reinstatement.

The reinstatement procedure is the same as other DMV Point System violations; unless the offender becomes classified as a Habitual Offender. The Bureau of Financial Responsibility is a helpful tool to navigate through the reinstatement process.

Administrative License Suspension (ALS)

If any person refuses or submits to a test which discloses an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (0.02 for those under 21), the law enforcement officer shall submit a sworn report to the Department of Safety Division of Motor Vehicles. In the report the officer shall certify that the test was requested and that the person refused to submit to testing or submitted to a test which disclosed an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more (0.02 for minors).

Upon receipt of the sworn report of a law enforcement officer submitted under paragraph I, the department shall suspend the person’s driver’s license or privilege to drive as follows:

– In the case of a refusal to take a test, the suspension shall be between 180 days and 2 years.

– In the case of a person who submits to a test which discloses an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more or (0.02 for minors), the suspension shall be for:

  1. Six months if there is no prior refusal under RSA 265-A:14, no prior driving while intoxicated or aggravated driving while intoxicated convictions, and no prior administrative license suspension pursuant to RSA 265-A:30.
  2. Two years if there is a prior refusal under RSA 265-A:14, or a prior driving while intoxicated or aggravated driving while intoxicated conviction, or a prior administrative suspension pursuant to RSA 265-A:30.


How long will prior DUI convictions remain relevant for sentencing purposes in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, prior DUI convictions stay on a driving record (and can be counted against second and third offences during sentencing for another DUI/DWI offense) for 10 years.

Can a DUI be “pleaded down” to a “wet reckless” in New Hampshire?

In some circumstances, a plea bargain of “wet reckless” might be accepted by the prosecution in the state the offence took place. A “wet reckless,” or a conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, is usually made as a result of a plea bargain in which a charge of drunk driving is reduced to a case of reckless driving. A plea bargain of wet reckless might occur when the amount of alcohol is borderline illegal, there was no accident, and the defendant has no prior record. But if there is a subsequent drunk driving conviction, the “wet reckless” is usually considered a prior drunk driving conviction; the resulting sentence can be what’s required for a second DUI/DWI conviction. To make a plea for a wet reckless, be sure to enlist the help of a lawyer.

Are ignition interlock devices (IIDs) required for convicted DUI offenders in New Hampshire?

Yes, an ignition interlock device is required to be installed on any vehicle driven by the defendant during the period of license revocation, for second offenses and all other subsequent offenses as well as for aggravated DUI offenses (BAC of .16% or higher).

Does New Hampshire have hardship laws?

No, New Hampshire does not currently have hardship laws. However, as of July 28th, 2014 the NH house approved Bill HB496 which would authorizes limited driving privileges for eligible first-time DWI offenders to facilitate employment, rehabilitation, education, job training, and medical treatment. The bill is scheduled to take effect January 1st, 2016.

For more information regarding DUI laws in New Hampshire please feel free to reference: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/xxi/265-a/265-a-mrg.htm

New Hampshire DUI & DWI Laws & Enforcement at DMV.org: The DMV Made Simple. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.dmv.org/nh-new-hampshire/automotive-law/dui.php

DUI Laws in New Hampshire | Nolo.com. (n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2015, from http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/new-hampshire-dui-dwi-33662.html