DWI in New Hampshire

What is a DWI in New Hampshire?

A DUI, which stands for "Driving Under the Influence". describes an unlawful act involving driving or operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. In the United States, jurisdictions either stick to the DUI acronym, use another (e.g., OVI, DWAI, DWI), or use two acronyms interchangeably to define an impaired driving act and its penalties. The State of New Hampshire uses the DUI and DWI ("Driving While Intoxicated") terms when discussing drunk or drugged driving offenses.

New Hampshire's DWI laws are compiled under Title XXI, Chapter 265-A of the state's Revised Statutes Annotated. Anyone convicted of a DWI by the courts under these statutes will incur penalties such as imprisonment, fines, probation, license suspensions or revocations, and so on. The convicted individual may also face other collateral consequences, including the termination of an employment contract, increased auto insurance premiums, and difficulty in entering a foreign country. New Hampshire DWI offenses are often included in the offender’s New Hampshire criminal record, unless the offender is acquitted or exonerated of the crime.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in New Hampshire?

All impaired driving offenses committed in New Hampshire are referred to as either DUIs ("Driving Under the Influence) or DWIs ("Driving While Intoxicated). The state does not differentiate between the two terms. As such, any person who is accused of driving or operating a vehicle (or boat) while intoxicated to a certain extent will find DUI or DWI charges brought against them, and they will be liable to the legal consequences.

New Hampshire DWI Laws

The DWI laws of New Hampshire can be found under RSA 265-A of the state's revised statutes.

According to RSA 265-A:2, an individual can be charged with driving or operating under the influence of liquor or drugs, or driving or operating with excess alcohol concentration in New Hampshire, if:

  • Such a person drives or attempts to drive a vehicle, or operates or attempts to operate an OHRV (off-highway recreational vehicle as defined in RSA 259:69 or a snowmobile as described in RSA 259:102), while:
    • Under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, or any natural or synthetic chemical substance that impairs one's driving ability, or
    • Having an alcohol concentration of .08% or higher (or .02% or higher for a driver under 21 years of age).

The New Hampshire statutes also have another provision for a more serious kind of impaired driving, known as an "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" (ADWI).

According to RSA 265-A:3, an individual is guilty of an aggravated DWI in New Hampshire if s/he drives, operates, or attempts to operate a vehicle, OHRV, or boat while:

  • Having an alcohol concentration of .16% or higher, or
  • Under the influence of intoxicating liquor, drugs, or any other chemical substance that impairs one's driving ability, or having an alcohol concentration of .08% or higher (or .02% or higher for a person under 21 years of age), and at the time of the offense, such a person:
    • Speeds over 30 miles/hour past the prima facie speed limit (the default speed limit that applies when no other is evident).
    • Causes a motor vehicle, OHRV, or boating collision involving serious bodily injury.
    • Attempts to elude police pursuit by increasing speed, turning off headlamps or navigational lamps (for boats) while in motion, or abandoning the vehicle, OHRV, or boat.
    • Has a passenger below 16 years of age.
    • Drives a vehicle with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more.

In New Hampshire, three main institutions oversee the punishment, treatment, and rehabilitation of persons arrested by law enforcement on DWI charges:

The courts deal with the criminal prosecution of defendants and will typically impose jail time and fines on guilty persons. On the other hand, the Division of Motor Vehicles handles administrative penalties (e.g., driver's license suspensions), which are exacted on the accused whether the person is convicted in court or not.

Lastly, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), approves the Impaired Driver Care Management Programs (IDCMPs) that drivers convicted of impaired driving or boating offenses must complete.

DWI Penalties in New Hampshire

Any person arrested for a DWI in New Hampshire will face criminal penalties and administrative license actions. An accused individual will not incur criminal punishment unless convicted (found guilty) by the court. However, the same cannot be said for the administrative penalties that are imposed despite a person being acquitted of the DWI charge. The DWI penalties in New Hampshire include:

  • Jail
  • Fines, fees, and surcharges
  • Probation
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Community service
  • License suspension, revocation, or disqualification
  • Participation in an impaired driver care management program (also called an alcohol education or intervention program)

What Happens When You Get a DWI in New Hampshire?

Getting pulled over for a DWI in New Hampshire is akin to getting pulled over for a DUI, as both charges mean the same thing in the state. A motorist who is stopped at a DWI checkpoint or because they displayed signs of intoxication can be arrested and given a ride to the police station.

An arrest will usually occur if a roadside test, also known as the Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), shows that the individual's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher (0.02% or higher for people under 21) if the party fails a standardized field sobriety test, or both.

What follows afterward is the legal process. The accused will be informed of the administrative license suspension (ALS) process and asked to submit to a second breath, blood, or urine test to check their blood-alcohol levels.

While it is within every arrestee's rights to refuse the post-arrest test, it only triggers ALS actions. This is because, according to the state's implied consent laws, anyone who drives, operates, or attempts to operate a vehicle or boat in New Hampshire is presumed to have given consent to a test to determine their blood alcohol concentration. Therefore, declining such a test will lead to a 180-day license suspension for a first offense and a 2-year license suspension for a subsequent offense. This penalty is imposed in addition to any DWI conviction. Also, the refusal may be admissible as evidence in ensuing civil or criminal court proceedings (RSA 265-A:10).

Other than the administrative sanctions, the arrested person may be charged with a criminal offense, required to post bail, and attend court hearings until the case is resolved.

Ultimately, it is vital to have a defense lawyer when faced with DWI charges in New Hampshire. Failing to do so on time may compromise a person's legal rights and case.

Note that any person subject to a license suspension because of a DWI in New Hampshire has 30 days from the date of arrest or receipt of BAC results to request a hearing to challenge the suspension. If no hearing is requested within that time, the person will lose the right to contest, and the Division of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend their license.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, a first DUI or DWI is a Class B misdemeanor that comes with these consequences:

  • A fine of at least $500
  • Referral to an Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP). However, suppose the first-time offender's alcohol and drug abuse screening (done within 14 days of conviction) shows the likelihood of a substance abuse disorder. In that case, the individual will need to submit to another disorder evaluation within 30 days of conviction and afterward adhere to a service plan created by the IDCMP from the evaluation.
  • Completion of a DHHS-approved impaired driver education program before the restoration of one's license or driving privileges. However, this requirement will be met if the offender has completed such a program within the last 5 years.
  • Payment of all related IDCMP fees.
  • Revocation of the offender's driver's license or driving privileges for at least 9 months but not more than 2 years. The court may suspend up to 6 months of the revocation period if:
    • The offender is screened within 14 days,
    • Completes an approved substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days and complies with the service plan created afterward, and
    • Completes a DHHS-approved impaired driver education program.

The court may also order the offender to install an ignition interlock device during the period of the reduced sentence and may restore the longer suspension period upon the offender's noncompliance with any treatment order.

  • Submission to random urinalysis tests or other such tests.

First Aggravated DWI Offense

The charge and penalties for a typical DWI offense could be heightened to an aggravated DWI in New Hampshire if certain events occured at the time of the offense. For example, serious bodily injury, death, eluding law enforcement officers, blood alcohol concentration above .16%, etc.

As a result, there are two types of aggravated DWI offenses that a person can be charged with for the first time in New Hampshire:

  • Class A misdemeanor aggravated DWI
  • Class B felony aggravated DWI

Class A Misdemeanor Aggravated DWI

Any person who is convicted of an aggravated DWI under RSA 265-A:3, except as stated in subparagraph (c)—i.e., where the offender attempted to elude police pursuit by increasing speed, extinguishing headlamps/navigational lamps, or abandoning a vehicle—is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor aggravated DWI in New Hampshire.

Such a person will incur the following penalties:

  • A fine of at least $750.
  • A mandatory sentence of at least 17 consecutive days in a county correctional facility, of which the court will suspend 12 days. A condition of this suspension is that upon serving 5 days in county jail, the individual will:
    • Schedule a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release.
    • Complete such evaluation within 60 days of release; and
    • Comply with the service plan created by the IDCMP.

Noncompliance with the release conditions will result in the restoration of any suspended sentence.

  • Installation of alcohol ignition interlock device according to RSA 265-A:36.
  • Revocation of a person's driver's license for at least 18 months but not more than 2 years. However, the court may suspend 6 months of the revocation period if the offender complies with the IDCMP service plan and pays all required fees, and order the offender to install an interlock device for the duration of the suspended sentence.
  • Submission to random urinalysis tests or other similar tests.

Class B Felony Aggravated DWI

When a DWI offense involves serious bodily injury, an individual can be charged with a Class B felony aggravated DWI in New Hampshire.

A felony DWI in this context leads to the following penalties:

  • A fine not less than $1,000.
  • A mandatory incarceration sentence of at least 35 consecutive days in a county correctional facility, of which the court will suspend 21 days. A condition of this suspension is that upon release from serving 14 days in county jail, the individual will:
    • Schedule a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release.
    • Complete such evaluation within 60 days of release; and
    • Comply with the service plan developed by the IDCMP.

(Noncompliance with the release conditions will result in the restoration of any suspended sentence.)

  • Installation of alcohol ignition interlock device according to RSA 265-A:36.
  • Revocation of a person's driver's license for at least 18 months but not more than 2 years. The court may suspend 6 months of the revocation, provided the offender:
    • Schedules a substance use disorder assessment within 30 days of their release, or once released from the county correctional facility, whichever happens later.
    • Completes such assessment within 60 days of release with an IDCMP-approved service provider, as well as the associated service plan, and installs an interlock device for the duration of the suspended sentence and any other imposed period.
    • Pays all required fees.
  • Submission to random urinalysis tests or other tests approved by the court.

First DUI Offense (Underage Driver)

Drivers below the age of 21 who were convicted because they drove or operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while their blood alcohol concentration was .02 or higher, will receive the same penalties attributed to adult offenders, except that:

  • The underage offender's driving license or privileges will be revoked for a period not less than one year.

In addition:

  • The offender will be required to schedule a substance use disorder evaluation with an IDCMP-approved service provider within 30 days of the conviction or once released from a correctional facility, whichever happens later.
  • The offender must complete the substance use disorder evaluation within 60 days of their release.
  • The offender must complete an approved impaired driver education program if no such program was completed within the last 5 years.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in New Hampshire?

Anyone who commits a DWI offense in New Hampshire for the second time within 10 years of a first offense is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties include:

  • A fine of at least $750.
  • Revocation of a person's driver's license or driving privileges for at least 3 years. The license or privilege will not be restored until the offender completes the service plan (see below) developed by the Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) and pays all associated fees.

If the second offense occurs within 2 years of the first, the following additional penalties apply:

  • A mandatory incarceration sentence of at least 60 days, of which the court will suspend 30 days, provided that upon release after 30 days:
    • The offender schedules a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release.
    • Completes such evaluation within 60 days of release; and
    • Complies with the service plan developed by the IDCMP as a result of the evaluation.

If the second offense occurs more than 2 years from the first offense, but not over 10 years, these following additional penalties will be imposed:

  • A mandatory imprisonment sentence of at least 17 days, of which the court will suspend 12 days, provided that upon release after 5 days:
    • The offender schedules a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release.
    • Completes such evaluation within 60 days of release; and
    • Complies with the service plan developed by the IDCMP.

In both scenarios, noncompliance with the release conditions will cause the reimposition of any suspended sentence.

What Happens After a Third DUI in New Hampshire?

A third DUI offense in New Hampshire has the same penalties as those assessed for a second offense, except that:

  • The offender's driver's license or driving privilege will be revoked indefinitely. However, should at least 5 years pass, the individual can petition the court for the eligibility to reapply for a license. The court will not grant this petition until the offender meets all associated requirements (e.g., completion of the Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) service plan and payment of relevant fees) and shows good cause for the request.

(Note that if the second or first offense is negligent homicide, as described by RSA 630.3, II or an out-of-state equivalent, the offender must wait at least 10 years to petition the court to qualify for license reinstatement. The court may also require the installation of an ignition device for up to 5 years before the offender's license can be reinstated)

  • The court shall impose a mandatory incarceration sentence of at least 180 days, of which it will suspend 150 days if after serving 30 days in a county correctional facility:
    • The offender schedules a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release.
    • Completes such evaluation within 60 days of release; and
    • Complies with the service plan developed by the Impaired Driver Care Management Program.

Failure to adhere to the above release conditions can make the court reimpose the suspended sentence. Also, the court may defer the offender's sentence for 2 years and, upon completing any mandatory treatment, suspend the remaining deferred sentence.

A fourth or subsequent DWI/DUI in New Hampshire is a felony. Anyone convicted of such an offense will have their driver's license or driving privilege revoked indefinitely. That person may petition a court for the eligibility to reapply for a driver's license, but this cannot happen until the individual's license has been revoked for at least 7 years.

How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in New Hampshire?

A DWI conviction in New Hampshire stays on a person's driving record (also, driving history record or report) for 10 years. The conviction cannot be removed until that time is past.

DWI Expungement in New Hampshire

An expungement is a legal process initiated by petitioning a court to remove an arrest or conviction from a criminal record. This advantage is provided to offenders to help them start over and avoid hardships resulting from a criminal conviction. New Hampshire refers to this process (an expungement) as an "annulment".

According to RSA 265-A:21, a person cannot petition for the annulment of a DWI conviction until 10 years have passed from the date of conviction. (Note that an annulment does not wipe a conviction off a person's record. The conviction will remain but will be marked as "annulled". The effect is that the concerned individual can answer "no" if asked if they have a DWI conviction.)

However, although the court may annul the record of a person convicted of an aggravated DWI, the court will reopen the record for sentencing purposes should the individual be convicted of another aggravated DWI offense.

Furthermore, according to RSA 265-A:18, I, first-time offenders may be able to reduce their DWI conviction to a non-criminal violation by filing a motion with the sentencing court once a year has passed from their conviction date. To grant an offender's motion, the court will consider factors such as the recommendations of the Impaired Driver Care Management Program, the defendant's subsequent driving record, hardships incurred because of the DWI conviction on one's criminal record, and other factors deemed important by the court. However, note that while this will remove the conviction from the petitioner's criminal history, it will remain on the person's driving record.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire does not impose any jail penalty on first-time DUI offenders unless aggravating factors are present. Suppose aggravating elements (e.g., serious bodily injury) exist. In that case, the offender can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor or Class B felony aggravated DWI—depending on the circumstances of the case—and be liable to a term of imprisonment.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in New Hampshire?

A DUI in New Hampshire is costly. An individual will be subject not only to costs arising from the arrest, court proceeding, and criminal sentence but also to those resulting from administrative penalties, including the fees for reinstatement of a suspended driver's license and installation of an ignition interlock device. Also included are the financial implications that the individual will suffer because of the arrest or conviction, including a job loss, daily transportation costs due to a suspended license, and increased insurance premiums.

Because each DUI case differs, estimating how much one might end up spending is not entirely feasible. The average runs into several thousands of dollars.

Ultimately, the best way to reduce these costs is to abstain from driving while impaired, and if arrested, try to avoid a conviction—for this, it is crucial to retain a qualified lawyer.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in New Hampshire?

Although bail may be required for persons arrested for a criminal offense, this does not apply to DWI arrests in New Hampshire. Instead, DWI offenders are usually released on personal recognizance. They will be asked to sign a paper promising to appear for their court hearing at the police station.

How to Get My License Back After a DWI in New Hampshire?

Any DWI arrest or conviction in New Hampshire can result in a driver's license suspension or revocation. To get back this license, the individual will need to clear the suspension/revocation with the DMV's Financial Responsibility (FR) Bureau after the imposed license forfeiture period is over. The individual will also need to pay all related fees before the license can be restored.

However, if a person's license has been suspended/revoked for 3 or more years, the individual will need to take the complete driver's license exam.

How Does a DWI Affect Your Life in New Hampshire?

A DWI arrest or conviction in New Hampshire will have both legal, financial, and collateral consequences on a person's life. For a convicted person, even when freed from an incarceration sentence, the individual will sometimes have to endure hardships in finding a job, gaining admission into an educational institution, immigration, and entering another country. Also, if the party wants to get insurance for a vehicle, the rate may be substantially higher because insurance companies typically check a person's driving record for DWI offenses.

Furthermore, if the arrested or convicted person is a parent or guardian, it might result in a loss of custody or visitation rights if the parent has a pending custody case.

Can You Get Fired for a DWI in New Hampshire?

Possibly. New Hampshire's laws do not ban employers from firing an employee because of a DUI arrest or conviction. While some companies may overlook the offense, the chances of losing one's job become significantly higher when driving is part of the job requirement. Job losses can also occur if the DWI arrest or conviction raises questions about the individual's professionalism and ability to do their job. For instance, if the DWI offender is a commercial truck driver, medical professional, pilot, or in active military service.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in New Hampshire?

DWI OR DWI checkpoints in New Hamsphire, or sobriety checkpoints, are barricades set up on roads and highways by law enforcement agencies to discourage people from driving impaired (under the influence of alcohol or drugs).

Thirty-eight out of the fifty states in America, plus the District of Columbia, implement these roadblocks in their jurisdictions. Although New Hampshire is one of these states, the police must follow specific procedures when establishing DWI checkpoints; otherwise, it would be illegal. Also, these checkpoints are meant to temporarily detain people driving vehicles, not only those on motorcycles. (Motorcycle-only sobriety checkpoints are prohibited in the state.)

According to RSA 265:1-a, the police must receive judicial approval from the superior court to establish a sobriety checkpoint. The court will only authorize this checkpoint if it is necessary and the method to be employed when stopping vehicles satisfies constitutional guarantees. (For example, the checkpoints cannot be used to conduct other criminal investigations or to find other criminal violations.)

Also, per the law, the police must notify the public of these checkpoints. As such, people can check media coverages to find DWI/DUI checkpoints in New Hampshire, including press releases, press conferences, newspapers, and radio/television.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

In New Hampshire, a DUI means the same thing as a DWI. The state does not impose separate penalties or descriptions for a DUI or DWI offense, nor does it refer to one offense as a more severe version of the other. As such, drivers caught driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol in New Hampshire can be prosecuted on DUI or DWI charges.