The New Hampshire DWI Process

If you are facing charges for DWI in New Hampshire, you may want to know more about the process you are about to undergo. The more that a DWI suspect understands the process, the more informed their choices will be. For example, a suspect who pleads not guilty at their arraignment can change their plea at any time during the process. Fortunately, when you hire a DWI attorney, you can put their knowledge and experience to work for you. When you hire a DWI lawyer, they can help you through the entire process and work to build a strong defense for you.

New Hampshire DWI Arrest

When a driver is stopped by law enforcement in New Hampshire, officers are trained to look for signs of intoxication. An officer may evaluate a driver for DWI if they are given a reason to believe the driver may be impaired. Anything from slurred speech to the scent of drugs or alcohol wafting from the vehicle can be cause for suspicion. This process begins even before a person is stopped. If an officer observes  a vehicle that is swerving, making wide turns, failing to signal or even driving too slow, these may be indications that the driver is impaired. Under New Hampshire law RSA 265-A:2, it is illegal for a person to operate a motor vehicle and:

  • Be impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Have an alcohol concentration of 0.08% if they are over 21 or 0.02% if they are under

If a law enforcement official believes that a driver is impaired, they will likely begin by asking them if they have been drinking or using drugs. Regardless of the answer, they will next ask the driver to take a field sobriety test. Field sobriety tests are physical tests that a DWI suspect is asked to complete in order to determine whether or not they are physically impaired. There are three types of field sobriety tests commonly used. These are called standardized field sobriety tests because the performance of them is standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). These three tests include:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test
  • The 9 Step Walk and Turn Test
  • The One-Leg Stand Test

Declining to take these tests will result in 6 months of license suspension under NH's implied consent law. The second type of test that an officer may request a DWI suspect take is a breathalyzer test. New Hampshire law enforcement sometimes use a breath testing device called the Preliminary Breath Test to get a roadside blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reading. This device measures the amount of alcohol in a person's breath. Both the breath test and the horizontal gaze nystagmus tests are ineffective at testing for drug impairment. If a suspect fails any of these tests, law enforcement will arrest them on suspicion of DWI. Even if a driver passes these tests, they may still be arrested if the officer believes that they are intoxicated and wants them to take a chemical sobriety test.

DWI Arraignment in New Hampshire

If the law enforcement officer believes that you are intoxicated, you will be arrested and taken into custody. You will then be asked to take a State administered chemical sobriety test. There are three types of chemical tests:

  • Blood Test
  • Breath Test
  • Urine Test

The arresting officer will decide what test you should take. Drivers in New Hampshire are required to submit to a chemical sobriety test under RSA 265-A:4 Implied Consent Law. If a suspect fails to submit to a chemical test, they will be in violation of implied consent and penalized with license suspension.

If a driver violates implied consent or takes a chemical test that shows an alcohol concentration that is over the legal limit, their driver's license will also be taken from them and they will be issued a 30 day temporary license. After 30 days this license will expire and administrative license suspension will begin. It is vital to hire a DWI attorney immediately after arrest in order to make sure you have your best chance at keeping your license.

After arrest you will also be given an arraignment date. The arraignment is your first chance to appear in front of a judge. You will be formally read what you are being charged with and will have a chance to enter your plea of guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, your case will move toward a trial. It is important to remember that entering a guilty plea will lead straight to sentencing but entering a bit guilty plea will allow your attorney to examine the evidence against you. If the evidence against you is strong, you can always change your plea to not guilty later on.