New Hampshire Drug DWI Lawyer

New Hampshire DWI Drug Laws

A person can be charged with driving while intoxicated if they are accused of operating a vehicle while impaired by an intoxicating substance. In New Hampshire, a DWI charge can arise from alcohol impairment or drug impairment. According to RSA 265-A:2(a), a person shall not operate a vehicle under the influence or combined influence of “any controlled drug, prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which impairs a person's ability”.

Under RSA 265-A:3, I, a person can be charged with aggravated DWI for operating a vehicle under the influence of a drug as stated above and any of the following:

  • Driving 30 or more miles per hour over the speed limit
  • Causing a car accident resulting in serious bodily injury to another person
  • Attempting to elude police by speeding up, turning off headlamps, etc.
  • Carrying a passenger under the age of 16

Under these laws, a driver with any amount of a drug in their system can be suspected of driving while impaired. Drug-related DWI offenses are similar to alcohol related offenses in that all the laws apply the same way. Drug related impairment is slightly more complicated than alcohol impairment, however. The laws that apply to drug impairment are not as well defined as alcohol and the methods used to test drug intoxication pose their own set of problems.

Types of Drugs

Any type of drug that is noted to cause side effects that could impair a person's ability to drive can be used as evidence of DWI. Some people think that DWI drug laws only apply to illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc. Even over-the-counter or prescription drugs can be used in a DWI case. In fact, a person could be charged with DWI for driving under the influence of a medically prescribed drug taken in proper dosage.

The problem with many types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is that users react differently. For example, someone taking a certain prescription drug may never experience an intoxicating side effect but they may still be charged with DWI for driving under the influence of the drug if it has caused impairment to people in the past. Any type of prescription drug that lists side effects such as drowsiness, sleep driving, fatigue or weariness, impairment of judgment, impairment of motor skills or anything similar should be avoided before operating a vehicle. Even commonly prescribed drugs such as Xanax, Ritalin, Adderall or allergy medications could be subject to a drug DWI charge.

Testing for Drug Impairment

Just like with alcohol related cases, all drug-related DWI suspects are subject to implied consent laws. This means that anyone accused of DWI must submit to chemical and field sobriety testing or else face penalties of license suspension.

When it comes to measuring drug impairment, some tests work better than others. For example, there are three standardized field sobriety tests most commonly used to measure physical impairment. The most scientific of these tests is The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. This test, however, is not effective at detecting drug impairment. It involves looking for an involuntary eye twitch which is only a symptom of alcohol intoxication. Also, breath tests are not able to detect drugs in a suspect's system. Instead, a person accused of DWI will likely be asked to take a urine or blood sobriety test. The results of these tests often take time to process. This means that drivers suspected of drug DWI can be arrested before there is any real proof that they had consumed drugs.

DWI Drug Penalties in New Hampshire

The penalties for a drug related DWI conviction are the same as an alcohol related conviction. The more prior offenses a person has on their criminal record, the more penalties they will be subject to. Drug and alcohol DWI convictions are interchangeable so a person who is arrested for a drug DWI who has previously been convicted of an alcohol DWI will be charged as a repeat offender. This includes the following:

  • First drug DWI offense:
    • Class B charges
    • A fine of at least $500
    • Nine months to two years of license suspension
    • Impaired Driver Intervention Program (IDIP)
    • Drug abuse screening at an Impaired Driver Care Management Program  (IDCMP)
  • Second drug DWI offense:
    • A fine of at least $750
    • Mandatory jail time of at least 60 days
    • Three years of license revocation
    • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Third drug DWI offense:
    • A fine of at least $750
    • Mandatory jail time of at least 180 days
    • Five years of license revocation
    • Installation of an ignition interlock device
New Hampshire DWI Drug Defenses

Because drug impairment charges are more complicated to test for, defending against then can be easier. Unlike alcohol, which stays in a person's system as long as they are intoxicated, drugs can stay in a user's body for days or even weeks after the drug is consumed. This means that if a drug test comes up positive it does not necessarily indicate that the driver was impaired when they were operating the vehicle. Prosecutors have no way to prove when the drug was consumed which means they have no way to prove that the driver was still feeling the effects at the time of their arrest.

In addition, drug tests often do not measure the quantity of drug that was in the suspect's system. Therefore, a person who consumes a small amount of a drug would get the same drug test result as a person who consumes mass quantities of it. For drugs like marijuana this could be make a huge difference in impairment level.

Call a Drug NH DWI Attorney Now

Even though there are many defense options available, a drug-related DWI is still a serious charge. The best course of action is to hire an experienced attorney right away. DWI lawyer Ryan Russman understands what it takes to fight a drug change. He is extremely knowledgeable of New Hampshire criminal defense and DWI law. Whether you were facing charges for a first-time offense or you are a repeat offender, call our office now. You can set up a consultation with attorney Russman to discuss your case and go over your defense options.