DWI - 1st Offense (Under Age 21)

Drivers under 21 years old who face DWI charges in NH face a number of special considerations.

Lower Standards of Proof in BAC Cases

First, in terms of the government's obligation to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt: If the person is charge with driving under the influence, the legal standards are the same as for over-21 drivers. There is no "DUI-Lite" for under-21 drivers accused of driving under the influence. This is true whether the person is accused of driving under influence of alcohol, or of drugs/substances, or of a combination.

But if the person is charged with driving while over the legal limit, the legal standards are very different, because the legal limit is only .02 % alcohol for under-21 drivers. That's basically one Budweiser, maybe even less than that. (The legal limit for over 21 drivers, of course, is .08%).

Much Longer License Suspensions

Second, under-21 drivers face much longer license suspensions if convicted of DWI. The minimum suspension is one year, and it cannot be reduced to a shorter suspension based on early completion of IDCMP requirements. If under 20, they will also face administrative suspensions of at least 20 days and potentially much longer, depending on prior motor vehicle record.

For these reasons, NH's mostly-useless "Limited License" can be very valuable to under-21 drivers.

Ignition Interlock Often Mandated

Third, under 21 drivers are much more likely to face an ignition interlock requirement if convicted. It's not a certainty. We have represented, and seen many examples, of under-21 drivers who were not required to install an interlock as a condition of license restoration. But as common sense would suggest, its more likely that a Hearings Examiner will require interlock, especially if its an alcohol DWI, as opposed to a marijuana or other substance-impaired DWI. (Ignition interlocks, at least for now, cannot identify drivers who are under influence of controlled substances).

Special Restoration Hearing Required

Fourth, an under-21 driver convicted of DWI must not only serve out the license suspension and do the IDCMP programming. They must also request a special administrative hearing and prove that they "will drive in a safe manner if the license is issued." NH RSA 263:14. At these hearings, the young person will be placed under oath and asked if they have consumed alcoholic beverages since the DWI arrest (which of course is illegal). Very uncomfortable position for many if not most teenagers.... Fortunately, these hearings are not required if the person has turned 21 since the date of arrest.

No Hidden Legal Fees

When we represent an under-21 driver, we almost always work under a flat fee that covers all of these hearings. It covers, of course, the court case and the administrative license suspension hearing. But it also covers the ignition interlock hearing and under-21 restoration hearing if the client ends up getting convicted of under-21 DWI.