The consequences of a DWI conviction (also called "DUI") depend mostly on the number of prior convictions the driver has. This article covers the basics of New Hampshire's DWI laws and the penalties for a first DWI conviction.
To understand what New Hampshire's DWI laws prohibit and the penalties you might face for a first conviction, it's important to understand how the offense is defined and some factors that can increase penalties.
In New Hampshire, you can be convicted of a DWI for operating or attempting to operate a vehicle:
In other words, a DWI can be based on BAC or actual impairment.
An aggravated DWI involves driving while intoxicated and:
A motorist can also be convicted of an aggravated DWI for operating or attempting to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .16% or more.
A DWI conviction can lead to license suspension. However, a DWI arrest alone can lead to the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) administratively suspending your license.
New Hampshire's implied consent law generally requires all drivers lawfully arrested for a DWI to submit to a blood or breath test at the request of an officer. Drivers who fail or refuse to take a test face administrative license suspension.
Drivers with a BAC of .08% or more (.02% or more for drivers under the age of 21) typically face an administrative license suspension of six months.
The administrative suspension for a failed BAC test will generally overlap with any suspension that results from a DWI conviction in court. In other words, the driver won't have to complete two separate suspension periods.
Drivers who refuse to submit to DUI chemical testing in violation of New Hampshire's implied consent laws face a six-month license suspension.
However, administrative suspensions for refusal are in addition to any suspension the criminal court hands down for a DWI conviction—in other words, the administrative and criminal suspension can't overlap.
Once a motorist has completed a DWI suspension and the other requirements for license reinstatement, the DMV will issue a "probationary license" that will be in effect for at least five years.
With a probationary license, the motorist is prohibited from driving with a BAC of .03% or more. A violation carries a 90 to 180-day administrative license suspension. If a driver refuses to submit to testing while holding a probationary license, the DMV will suspend the driver's license for 90 days.
In New Hampshire, a standard first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor. Most aggravated DWIs are Class A misdemeanors. However, an aggravated DWI involving serious bodily injury is a Class B felony.
Jail and fines. Class B misdemeanors don't carry jail time, but offenders face fines from $500 to $1,200. Also, a first DWI has a number of hidden costs, such as insurance increases and attorney fees (assuming you hire an attorney).
License suspension and IIDs. A first-offense DWI carries a nine-month to two-year license revocation. But generally, a judge can suspend up to six months of the revocation. So the actual minimum suspension period a court can impose is three months—a nine-month revocation, with six months of that suspended. A judge who suspends a portion of an offender's revocation can require the offender to have an ignition interlock device (IID) during the time the revocation is suspended.
Jail and fines. A misdemeanor aggravated DWI carries fines of $750 to $2,000 and anywhere from five days to one year in jail. A driver convicted of a felony aggravated DWI, on the other hand, will have to pay $1,000 to $4000 in fines and spend between 14 days and seven years in jail.
License suspension and IIDs. All motorists convicted of an aggravated DWI face a license suspension of 18 months to two years, six months of which can be suspended by the court. After completing the revocation period, these drivers must have an IID in their vehicles for 12 months to two years.
New Hampshire judges must refer all motorists convicted of a first DWI to an Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) for alcohol and drug abuse screening. If the screening shows a likelihood of a substance abuse disorder, the motorist is required to do a full evaluation and follow the "service plan" recommended by the IDCMP provider.
First offenders typically must also complete an Impaired Driver Education Program (IDEP)—consisting of 20 hours of substance abuse education—before they're allowed to reinstate their license.
As with other first offenders, New Hampshire judges must refer drivers convicted of a first aggravated DWI to an IDCMP. However, offenders with aggravated DWIs skip the preliminary screening and go directly to a full evaluation.
New Hampshire DWI law is complicated and the facts of each case are different. It's always a good idea to get in touch with an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible after being arrested for or charged with a DWI.