New Hampshire's driving while intoxicated (DWI) (also called "DUI") laws prohibit driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This article explains how New Hampshire defines DWI and outlines some likely penalties for DWI convictions and options for handling a DWI charge.
To convict a driver of a DWI in court, prosecutors must prove the motorist was driving or attempting to drive a vehicle:
In other words, a DWI conviction can be based on BAC or actual impairment.
While "driving" is a commonly understood term, "attempting to drive" is a bit more nebulous. Courts have explained that an attempt to drive doesn't require movement of the vehicle but does require proof that the motorist took substantial steps toward engaging the vehicle. Substantial steps might include circumstances such as a running engine, keys in the ignition, lights or radio on, or other manipulation of vehicle controls.
Effectively, New Hampshire's law gives officers the authority to arrest a person for a DWI—based on attempted driving—before he or she actually drives away and presents a harm to others.
A driver is considered intoxicated if he or she is impaired to any degree due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or other impairing substances.
New Hampshire's DWI laws cover intoxication caused by controlled substances, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or any other chemical substance that impairs a person's ability to drive. The fact that a driver has a valid prescription for the intoxicating substance is not a legal defense to an impaired driving charge.
Where the prosecution opts to prove a DWI charge with BAC (a "per se" DUI charge), proof of actual impairment isn't necessary.
The penalties for a DWI in New Hampshire are set by statute depending mostly on the number of prior convictions. Only DWI convictions within the last ten years count.
Generally, first, second, and third DWI convictions are misdemeanors.
The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DWI conviction in New Hampshire.
17 days to 1 year (minimum 60 days if prior within last 2 years)
180 days to one year
$500 to $1,200
$750 to $2,000
$750 to $2,000
Instead of ordering a long jail sentence, judges will often place offenders on probation. However, some offenders must serve a short jail sentence prior to being released on probation. A first offense does not require any jail time, but a second offense requires five days (14 if the prior DWI occurred within the last five years) and a third offense requires at least 30 days in jail.
Probation lasts up to two years and requires the offender to comply with court supervision, avoid future criminal activity, and complete the mandatory treatment program.
All persons convicted of a New Hampshire DWI must complete a drug and alcohol evaluation, followed by the Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP). Depending on the results of the evaluation and the driver's substance abuse history, the program might require random testing, sobriety monitoring, and substance abuse treatment.
A DWI that involves certain factors will be classified as an "aggravated DWI" and carries increased penalties.
A DWI is considered an aggravated offense if the driver:
Anyone convicted of an aggravated DWI generally faces five days to one year in jail and $750 to $2,000 in fines. Aggravated DWIs involving serious injuries carry more severe penalties (discussed below).
A DWI in New Hampshire can be charged as a felony if the offender has at least three prior DWI convictions or if the current DWI results in injury or death.
A fourth or subsequent DWI violation in a ten-year period can be charged as a felony. While the penalties are generally identical to a third-offense DWI, the driver will not be eligible for driving privileges for at least seven years.
A DWI that involved serious bodily injury will be charged as a class B felony and carries 14 days to seven years in jail as well as $1,000 to $4,000 in fines.
A DWI that results in the death of another person can be charged as negligent homicide, a class B felony. Aside from the maximum seven years in prison and $4,000 in fines, the driver's license will be revoked for seven years, followed by five years with an ignition interlock device (IID).
A DWI will typically lead to license-related penalties. These penalties vary depending on the driver's BAC and the number of prior DWI-related incidents. Qualifying priors include DWI convictions, test failures, and test refusals within the driver's lifetime.
License-related penalties can result from a DWI arrest and/or conviction.
Under New Hampshire's "implied consent" law, all drivers are deemed to have given consent to a chemical test of his or her breath, blood, or urine. A driver must agree to take a chemical test (or face certain consequences) generally only if lawfully arrested for impaired driving.
When a driver refuses to take an alcohol or drug test requested by an officer, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Generally, the DMV will suspend the driver's license for:
Also, prosecutors can usually use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DWI charge.
A driver who submits to testing and produces a BAC above the legal limit will face license suspension. For a test failure, the DMV will issue a notice of suspension for:
Again, for most drivers, the BAC limit is .08%.
All DWI convictions are reported to the DMV and result in driver's license suspension. The DMV will suspend the driver's license for:
Offenders who are compliant with the IDCMP can generally apply for early license reinstatement. First offenders can typically reinstate after three months, second offenders after 12 months, and those convicted of an aggravated DWI can reinstate after 12 months. A permanently suspended driver can apply for a new license after five years.
Drivers who were already suspended due to a test failure will receive credit toward any conviction-based suspension. But suspensions due to test refusals run consecutively.
During sentencing, the judge is permitted to issue a restricted ignition interlock license during the probation period. This allows the person to drive (even if currently suspended) but only with an IID.
An IID license is mandatory for aggravated DWI convictions.
After serving the suspension period, drivers must complete the impaired driver education program prior to license reinstatement. Repeat offenders must instead complete the IDCMP.
Offenders will also be subject to probationary driving privileges for five years after reinstatement. During this time, any driver caught with a BAC of .03% or more will face a 90- to 180-day license suspension.
In New Hampshire, drivers who are under 21 years of age are prohibited from driving with a BAC of .02% or more. The penalties for underage drinking and driving are identical to those for a standard DWI except that all underage drivers will be suspended for at least one year.
If you've been arrested for driving while under the influence in New Hampshire, you should get in contact with a qualified DWI attorney in your area. DWI penalties are serious, but many penalties can be avoided or reduced. For instance, New Hampshire's pretrial diversion program is an option in some cases. An experienced DWI lawyer can help you understand how the law applies in your case and advise you on how best to handle your situation.