2016 New Hampshire Law on Limited Licenses for Drivers Convicted of DWI

First: Our firm does not assist people trying to obtain a limited license, unless we represented the person on the charge that resulted in the need for a limited license. For example, we are hired on an Aggravated DWI charge, client ends up being found guilty of a first offense non-Aggravated DWI, we will assist client in an effort to obtain limited license.

NH's Limited License Law

For decades, New Hampshire law did not allow any type of restricted license for people convicted of DWI. Even first offenders, facing tremendous hardships such as the potential loss of a job, loss of the ability to commute to school, or or loss of ability to drive a sick family member to medical appointments, could not get any form of "Cinderella" license or "Work Permit" or "Hardship" license during the license suspensions associated with a DWI (the administrative suspension, and the court-ordered suspension).

Effective January 1, 2016, a law allows people convicted of DWI-first offense - or "first-time DWI offenders" (see below) to petition the Court to approve a restricted license, after serving 45 days of the court-ordered suspension. The law, House Bill 0496-FN, provides the court the authority to approve a restricted license, for the following purposes.

Unfortunately, just five months after passage of this new law, the legislature amended it in a way that destroys its utility for most people, as discussed further below.

Permissible Purposes for Driving with a Restricted License

  1. That the person must operate a motor vehicle as a requisite of the person’s occupation or employment.
  2. That the person must operate a motor vehicle to seek employment or to get to and from a place of employment.
  3. That the person must operate a motor vehicle to get to or from an alcohol or drug treatment or rehabilitation program.
  4. That the person or a member of the person’s immediate family requires medical treatment on a regular basis and the person must operate a motor vehicle in order that the treatment may be obtained.
  5. That the person must operate a motor vehicle to continue his or her education.
  6. That the person must operate a motor vehicle to attend job training.

The person must pay a fee and install an ignition interlock device on any cars registered to them, or used by them on a regular basis, for the remaining term of suspension (but see 6/6/2016 amendment, below).

In 2014, Ted Lothstein testified in the legislature in support of passage of this law, because this new law will help some of our clients keep their jobs, support their families, and take better care of their loved ones. The law, as finally passed and effective January 1, 2016, proved helpful to several of our firm's clients. Unfortunately, the legislature, apparently lobbied heavily by the ignition interlock lobby, proceeded to amend the law in a way that makes it so expensive, few will find it worthwhile. This link should show you the current, amended version of the law.

The June 6, 2016 Amendment

Effective June 6, 2016, the legislature amended this law so that the person must keep the ignition interlock on their vehicles and pay for its monitoring, not just for the period of the limited license, but for an entire additional year after the license is fully restored. So, most drivers would need to pay for the ignition interlock for one year and 45 days, rather than just 45 days, if they chose to pursue a limited license. Financially, this will be a deal breaker for many people. For others, having the limited license for 45 days will not be worth the stigma of having a breath testing device on their cars for 390 days. Our firm is expecting that the demand for limited licenses will precipitously fall as a result of this new law.

Remember: the vast majority of people convicted of DWI-1st do not have to have an ignition interlock for any period of time as a result of conviction. So, this new amendment, in effect, adds an extra punishment, only for those first offenders who have a job (and therefore need a limited license). And no, we do not know why the legislature believes that unemployed, retired, or telecommuting DWI offenders should have less punishment than DWI offenders who have a job and need to drive to that job to support their families.

Can you have a prior arrest for DWI and still qualify for a limited license? Unfortunately, the DMV interprets the law to not allow limited license for a person with a prior DWI conviction during their lifetime, even if the prior DWI conviction occurred more than 10 years ago.

Do you have to be a NH resident to qualify for a limited license? Answer, unfortunately for many of our clients who live in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, etc is - yes. Available only to NH residents.

If you have a DWI case and schedule a free consultation with our lawyers, we can discuss the limited license law and whether it may potentially be available in your case. However, as stated above, if you have already lost your license and are looking into obtaining a limited license, we do not take on those matters.