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New Hampshire Alcohol Offenses and Minors

When people under the age of 21 get in trouble with the law in New Hampshire for alcohol-related offenses, these fall into the following categories:

Unlawful Possession of Alcohol, contrary to NH RSA 179:10

  • This can result in a court-ordered license suspension of between 90 days and one year for a first-time offender, or a court-ordered license suspension of between 6 months and 2 years for a repeat offender, under NH RSA 263:56-b.
  • However, license suspension is not mandatory for this offense. (It used to be mandatory, absent an express Order to the contrary from the Judge, but the law was changed in 2011).
  • The prosecutor can advocate for a license suspension, and the Judge can order it. However, a defense lawyer can advocate for, or negotiate for, no license suspension.

Transportation of Alcohol by a Minor in a Vehicle, contrary to NH RSA 265-A:45

  • This can result in a 60 day suspension of driver's license or out-of-state operator's privileges.

Transportation of Alcohol by a Minor in a Boat, Contrary to NH RSA 265-A:45, II

  • This can result in a 90 day suspension of the right to operate a boat, and a 90 day suspension of driver's license or out-of-state operator's privileges.

Manufacturing, Sale or Possession of False Identification, Contrary toNH RSA 179:62

  • By law, this is a misdemeanor crime for possession, or can even be prosecuted as a felony for certain repeat offenders or those engaged in the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, etc of false identifications.

Those are the offenses that Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC's criminal defense attorneys commonly handle in District Courts around New Hampshire. Many of our clients and their families hire us out of concern for the potential of a license suspension, which can be devastating to a young person who needs their license to drive to school, to work, to childcare locations, etc. Many more of our clients and their families hire us out of concern for the longterm impact that an alcohol-related conviction may have on the young person's future educational and employment opportunities, or in an effort to avoid reputational damage. For example, young people hoping to pursue law enforcement careers (as a State Trooper, FBI agent, probation officer, etc) must do everything they can to keep their record clean of any alcohol or drug related convictions.

Law Enforcement Myth: Internal Possession of Alcohol

It's common, in our experience, for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to tell a defendant that she faces a charge of "Internal Possession." There is no such thing. In NH, a person under 21 caught in possession of an actual alcohol beverage, such as a can of beer in a backpack, can be prosecuted under RSA 179:10. Or, a person under 21 who provides a breath or blood sample of .02 BAC or higher, can be prosecuted under RSA 179:10.

However, for a person under 21 who has been drinking, but is not in actual possession of a beverage, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is intoxicated. That is a higher standard that the State must prove to establish that a over-21 driver is guilty of DWI. So, if a law enforcement officer tells you or your loved one that she is being prosecuted for so-called "Internal Possession," consult with a lawyer to see if the State really has a case it can prove in court.

Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC Can Help

Attorneys Ted Lothstein and Richard Guerriero handle alcohol-related violations and misdemeanors for under 21 clients in all NH Courts. We know which defenses work — and which defenses don't work — in these cases. We also know the best strategies to put our client in the best possible light, in the hopes of persuading a prosecutor or police officer that a conviction is not the necessary or appropriate intervention for certain mistakes that many young people make, and in fact can do more harm than good. If you or your loved one is charged with an alcohol-related offense in any NH Court, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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