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How New Hampshire DWI Laws Compare to Other States

Posted by Ryan Russman | Jun 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Lawmakers in New Hampshire work to make sure that the state has the most effective DWI laws possible. In addition to making sure that laws are clear and cover a variety of situations, the sentencing guidelines for offenses are also evaluated. A good sentence should sufficiently punish the offender for their crime and discourage recidivism.

The NHTSA has released a report comparing DWI penalties in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington DC. The report looked at several factors including the following:

  • Whether the state has a policy regarding administrative license suspension for DWI offenders
  • The sanctions for first time DWI offenders
  • The sanctions for repeat DWI offenders
  • The sanctions for high BAC DWI offenders
  • Whether the state had a policy regarding ignition interlock usage

The findings for each category are explained below.

Administrative License Suspension

Out of all 52 districts, all have a policy regarding administrative license suspension except for 9 (Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Tennessee). In New Hampshire a DWI suspect is subject to administrative license suspension if they refuse a sobriety test when asked by a law enforcement agent who has reasonable suspicion to believe they are intoxicated. Administrative suspension also occurs if the suspect is found to have a BAC over the legal limit.

Penalties for First Time DWI Offenders

In New Hampshire, there is no mandatory jail time fora first time DWI offender. There is also no minimum amount of community service that must be completed after conviction. An offender will, however, be subject to license suspension of a minimum of 3 months any maximum of 2 years. According to the NHTSA's report, most states do not have a mandatory amount of just time for a first-time offender, but most have maximums ranging from 48 hours to 6 months. This means that there is no amount of jail time that must be served, but a judge can sentence jail time if they see fit. Most states also require 30 to 90 days of license suspension for a first time conviction.

Penalties for Repeat DWI Offenders

New Hampshire law requires repeat offenders to serve 3 years of license suspension. The amount of jail time for a repeat offender depends on the number of prior convictions and can range from 5 to 60 days. Many other states require 1 to 2 years of license suspension for repeat offenders and no states have a mandatory amount of time that is more than 3 years. Jail time also varies from state to state but ranges from 5 days to 1 year on average with 5 days being the most common mandatory minimum.

High BAC DWI Penalties

Out of all 52 districts, 36 have laws relating to high BAC DWIs. Though the NHTSA does not list New Hampshire as having a law applying to high BAC DUI offenses, any driver with a BAC of 0.16 or more will be charged with aggravated DWI instead and be subject to steeper penalties. The average BAC that is used as the minimum for a high BAC penalty is 0.15 though several states use 0.10 or as much as 0.20 as the minimum of high BAC. The penalties for a high BAC generally include either a few additional days of jail time or additional license suspension of 90 days to 1 year.

Ignition Interlock Laws

31 districts require all DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock device upon license reinstatement and 15 require repeat offenders or aggravated offenders with high BACs to use these devices. New Hampshire only requires repeat offenders or those charged with aggravated DWI to install and ignition interlock. In the majority of states, the length of time that these devices must be used depends on the driver's history.

Looking at these comparisons, New Hampshire DWI laws are about even with those of other states when it comes to sentencing. Laws are particularly tough in New Hampshire when it comes to license suspension however. The state does not require all offenders to use an ignition interlock device as many other states do. While this may seem like New Hampshire's laws are lighter, they actually be the opposite because installation of the device often allows drivers to get their license reinstated sooner where offenders in states where the device is not an option may have to serve the entire term of their suspension before eligible for reinstatement.

This table illustrates that even a first-time offender can face serious penalties in New Hampshire. If you have been arrested for DWI, contact an attorney right away.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.

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