Getting Stopped for DWI in New Hampshire
All driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in New Hampshire begin the same way – with a police stop. There are three ways that police stops can occur:
- Routine traffic stops
- Sobriety checkpoints
- After a serious or fatal accident
When law-enforcement agents patrol the streets, they are trained to spot drivers exhibiting signs of intoxication. An officer may suspect that the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol if they witness the driver driving too slow, swerving, failing to maintain their lane or showing some other sign that may indicate impairment. The officer may pullover a driver for suspicion of DWI only if they witnessed one of these actions or if the driver violated a traffic law such as speeding or failure to stop for a stop sign.
In either of these circumstances, when a police officer pulls over a vehicle they are trained to evaluate the driver for signs of intoxication while they perform their routine duties. If the officer suspects that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will likely ask them to perform a sobriety test or tests.
DWI arrests that begin at a random sobriety checkpoint can conclude the same way. When an officer stops a vehicle randomly at a sobriety checkpoint, they will often check for seatbelt use and ask the driver to show their license and registration. As they are doing this, they will also observe if there are any signs of impairment. Common signs that law enforcement look for in an impaired driver are as follows:
- Slurred speech
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Confusion or disorientation
- An odor of alcohol or drugs coming from the vehicle or the driver
- The presence of an open container or drug paraphernalia inside of the vehicle
If the officer is given any indication that could lead them to reasonably believe that the driver is impaired, they will evaluate for DWI.
The final way that a DWI arrest can begin is not when a driver is stopped by police but when a car accident results in serious injury or the death of another person. In this case, New Hampshire law enforcement will ask all drivers involved to submit to a sobriety test in order to determine if alcohol or drugs played a part in the accident.
New Hampshire DWI Evaluation
When an officer suspects that a driver is under the influence, they will ask the driver to perform a sobriety test or tests. In New Hampshire there are several tests that a DWI suspect will likely be asked to submit to. The first is a field sobriety test. A field sobriety test is a test that measures a suspect's physical and cognitive abilities. The suspect will be asked to perform an action such as walk 9 steps in a straight line touching heel to toe or stand on one leg. These tests are often recorded by a police car's dashboard camera in order to later demonstrate to the jury how intoxicated the suspect was.
A DWI suspect will also be asked to take a chemical blood, breath, or urine test. This type of test takes a sample and measures it for alcohol content or the presence of drugs. Breath tests produce results the quickest but only measure for alcohol impairment. Blood tests take several days or weeks for results to come back but test for both drugs and alcohol. Urine tests are the least common and produce results quickly but only measure drugs.
Under New Hampshire law, it is a violation of implied consent for a DWI suspect to refuse taking any type of sobriety test. If a law-enforcement officer asks a driver to take a sobriety test and has reasonable suspicion to believe that they are impaired, a driver who refuses such test will be penalized for implied consent violation. A violation will result in the following penalties: First refusal with no prior DWI convictions: 180 days of license suspension First refusal with prior DWI convictions: 2 years of license suspension
NH DWI Defenses
One common defense that experienced DWI attorneys turn to is questioning the lawfulness of a police stop. If a lawyer can prove that the traffic stop that resulted in the DWI arrest was not performed legally, the DWI charges may be dropped. In order for police to make a traffic stop in New Hampshire, they must have a reasonable articulable suspicion for stopping a driver. For example, a police officer who witnesses a car leaving a bar late at night does not have a reason to stop it because the driver has done nothing wrong and showed no signs of impairment. Simply being at a location at a certain time is not justification for a police stop. If the officer witnesses a car that is swerving or driving way under the speed limit, this is considered a reason for police to suspect DWI.
Sobriety checkpoints can also be found unlawful if they were not set up correctly. Under NH law RSA 265:1-a:
no law enforcement officer or agency shall establish or conduct sobriety checkpoints for the purposes of enforcing the criminal laws of this state, unless such law enforcement officer or agency petitions the superior court and the court issues an order authorizing the sobriety checkpoint after determining that the sobriety checkpoint is warranted and the proposed method of stopping vehicles satisfies constitutional guarantees.
This means that a law-enforcement agent cannot simply set up a checkpoint for purposes of catching DWI drivers. Instead, they must petition and get approved by the court to set up these checkpoints. If an attorney can successfully question whether or not an officer correctly followed protocol when setting up the checkpoint, the charges may be dropped.
Call A New Hampshire DWI Lawyer Now
If you have been arrested for suspicion of DWI in New Hampshire, call our office to make sure that your traffic stop was legal. Many people who are facing DWI charges believe that there is no way to fight their charges but an experienced DWI attorney can go over your case to see if any of your rights were violated at any point during the process. Call us now for free consultation and to find out more about unlawful traffic stops.