DUI Laws in New Hampshire

This article provides an in-depth look at DUI laws in New Hampshire, including definitions, penalties, and legal procedures.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in New Hampshire, carrying significant legal consequences. This article provides an in-depth look at DUI laws in New Hampshire, including definitions, penalties, and legal procedures. By understanding these laws, individuals can better navigate the legal system and make informed decisions.

Definition of DUI in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, DUI is defined under RSA 265-A:2. A person is guilty of driving under the influence if they operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or any combination thereof. The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% for drivers over 21, 0.02% for drivers under 21, and 0.04% for commercial drivers.

Types of Impairment

Impairment can be due to:

  • Alcohol
  • Prescription drugs
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Illegal drugs

Relevant Statutes

Penalties for DUI

First Offense

A first DUI offense in New Hampshire carries the following penalties:

  • Fines: Minimum $500.
  • License Suspension: 9 months to 2 years.
  • Imprisonment: Up to 10 days if aggravating factors are present.
  • Alcohol Education Program: Mandatory participation.

Second Offense

A second DUI offense within 10 years includes:

  • Fines: Minimum $750.
  • License Suspension: 3 years.
  • Imprisonment: 30 days to 1 year.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for reinstatement of driving privileges.

Third Offense

A third DUI offense within 10 years results in:

  • Fines: Minimum $1,000.
  • License Suspension: Indefinite, with the possibility of reinstatement after 5 years.
  • Imprisonment: 180 days to 1 year.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: Required for reinstatement of driving privileges.

Aggravated DUI

Aggravated DUI involves higher penalties and occurs under circumstances such as:

  • Excessive speeding.
  • Causing an accident resulting in injury.
  • Having a BAC of 0.16% or higher.
  • Driving with a minor in the vehicle.

Penalties include:

  • Fines: Minimum $750.
  • License Suspension: 18 months to 2 years.
  • Imprisonment: 17 days to 1 year.

Relevant Statutes

Arrest and Booking

When a driver is suspected of DUI, the arresting officer will:

  1. Conduct field sobriety tests.
  2. Administer a breathalyzer test.
  3. Arrest the driver if tests indicate impairment.
  4. Transport the driver to the police station for booking.

Arraignment

The arraignment is the first court appearance where the defendant is formally charged. The defendant can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Pre-Trial Motions

Pre-trial motions may include:

  • Motion to Suppress: Challenging the legality of the traffic stop or evidence.
  • Motion to Dismiss: Requesting the case be dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Trial

If the case goes to trial, it will be heard by a judge or jury. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was driving under the influence.

Sentencing

If found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence based on statutory guidelines and the specifics of the case.

Relevant Statutes

Administrative Penalties

License Suspension

The New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes administrative penalties, including license suspension, independent of criminal proceedings.

Under RSA 265-A:4, New Hampshire's implied consent law requires drivers to submit to chemical tests if suspected of DUI. Refusal results in automatic license suspension:

  • First Refusal: 180 days.
  • Subsequent Refusals: 2 years.

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) may be required for reinstatement of driving privileges. The IID prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver's BAC exceeds a preset limit.

Relevant Statutes

DUI and Minors

Zero Tolerance Law

New Hampshire has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21. A BAC of 0.02% or higher results in DUI charges.

Penalties for Minors

Penalties for minors include:

  • Fines: Minimum $500.
  • License Suspension: 1 year.
  • Alcohol Education Program: Mandatory participation.

Relevant Statutes

DUI and Commercial Drivers

Lower BAC Limit

Commercial drivers are held to a lower BAC limit of 0.04%. Violations result in:

  • License Suspension: 1 year for the first offense, lifetime for subsequent offenses.
  • Fines and Imprisonment: Similar to non-commercial drivers.

Relevant Statutes

DUI and Drugs

Drug-Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, is illegal. Penalties mirror those for alcohol-impaired driving.

Drug Recognition Experts

New Hampshire employs Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) to identify drug-impaired drivers through a series of tests.

Relevant Statutes

  • RSA 265-A:2: Includes provisions for drug-impaired driving.

DUI and Accidents

Causing an accident while driving under the influence results in enhanced penalties, including longer license suspensions and increased fines.

Vehicular Manslaughter

If a DUI results in a fatality, the driver may be charged with vehicular manslaughter, carrying severe penalties:

  • Imprisonment: Up to 15 years.
  • Fines: Substantial monetary penalties.

Relevant Statutes

  • RSA 630:2: Details vehicular manslaughter laws.

DUI Defense Strategies

Challenging the Traffic Stop

A common defense is to challenge the legality of the traffic stop. If the stop was unlawful, evidence obtained may be inadmissible.

Questioning Test Accuracy

Defense attorneys may question the accuracy of breathalyzer or field sobriety tests, citing improper calibration or administration.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can mimic impairment. A defense may argue that symptoms were due to a medical issue rather than intoxication.

Relevant Statutes

  • RSA 265-A:14: Provides grounds for challenging DUI charges.

Conclusion

Understanding DUI laws in New Hampshire is crucial for drivers. The state imposes strict penalties to deter impaired driving and protect public safety. By familiarizing themselves with these laws, individuals can better navigate the legal system and make informed decisions.

For more information, refer to the official New Hampshire statutes and resources provided throughout this article.

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