If you are charged with drunk driving in the state of New Hampshire, you are being accused of driving or attempting to drive a motorized vehicle (or boat) while under the influence of alcohol. In New Hampshire, this is referred to as DWI (driving while intoxicated). While there are legal limits regarding alcohol concentration levels, New Hampshire courts have found that “impairment to any degree” is cause for arrest.
Since 1994, the New Hampshire legal limit (Per Se limit) of alcohol concentration for drivers aged 21 years and older has been 0.08 percent. If the driver is under the age of 21 (it is not legal to drink under the age of 21 in New Hampshire), the limit is reduced to 0.02 percent. If you are operating a commercial vehicle, you are not allowed to have an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more. As you can see, underage drinkers are held to the strictest standards because New Hampshire has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinkers.
Driving while intoxicated is a “strict liability” offense in New Hampshire, meaning that just committing the offense is enough to be guilty, even if you do not appear to be impaired or actually endanger anyone with your driving. It requires no mens rea, or no actual intent, to commit a crime.
Something else that is extremely important to understand about New Hampshire law is that if your alcohol concentration is at or above the legal limit of 0.08 percent for a non-commercial driver over the age of 21, the alcohol concentration is considered “prima facie” evidence of the traditional or aggravated DWI offense, BUT if your alcohol level is anywhere between 0.03 percent and 0.079 percent, your alcohol concentration can still be used against you during your trial as relevant evidence of impairment.
If you are arrested for a traditional DWI, there are two different statutes concerning your arrest. You can either be arrested for driving while intoxicated or you can be arrested for the more serious crime of aggravated DWI, which carries stiffer fines, penalties and potential prison time.
Stay tuned for Part 2: DWI Charges in New Hampshire
This post contains excerpts from The DWI Book, the definitive guide to protecting your rights in the face of New Hampshire's tough DWI/DUI laws.