Drunk Driving Laws-Generally

If you have been charged with driving while intoxicated in New Hampshire, you need a DWI attorney with significant experience in New Hampshire DWI laws – now. New Hampshire drunk driving laws are constantly changing, and only an experienced DWI lawyer practicing in New Hampshire will be up to date.

The most important information you need now is that you may lose legal advantages as soon as ten days after being arrested for a DWI in NH. That’s why it’s crucial to immediately enlist the services of a lawyer who understands NH DWI laws.

NH DWI Laws — The Facts

New Hampshire DWI laws are complicated and constantly changing. The DWI information in this section does not purport to be complete, nor is it designed to be a source for legal research, and it does NOT constitute legal advice. You should use this explanation only as a guide to the basics of New Hampshire DWI laws, and make sure to contact a NH DWI lawyer, about your particular circumstances.

"DWI," "DUI" and "Drunk Driving"

In New Hampshire drunk driver law, DWI and DUI both stand for driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs. DUI and DWI are the same thing in New Hampshire. There is no lesser offense or drunk driver penalties such as “Driving while Ability Impaired” such as exists on the books in New York, Colorado, etc.

There are four DWI / DUI charges that may be brought, each with distinct drunk driver penalties. They are class B misdemeanor 1st offense DWI, class A misdemeanor Aggravated DWI, class B Felony Aggravated DWI, and DWI, subsequent offense, which may be a second, third, or even fourth offense. On this page, you can learn more about the "elements" that the government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt before a person can be convicted of DWI.

DWI fourth is also a felony in NH drunk driver law. DWI where the driver causes a motor vehicle accident that causes death or serious bodily injury is a felony – even if driver was the only person who was seriously injured.

Nearly all DWI prosecutions proceed on two parallel tracks:

  1. An Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Proceeding at the Department of Safety for refusing to provide a chemical test or providing one that is at or above the legal limit; and
  2. A case in a district or superior court where driver is charged with a crime. When you hire a NH DWI lawyer, the lawyer handles both proceedings.

Under NH DWI law, all DWI charges are now legally classified as crimes, not just traffic offenses.

DWI, 1st offense is a Class B misdemeanor, which is a crime, but a crime that does not carry the possibility of a jail sentence.

All other DWIs under NH drunk driver law – aggravated, subsequent offense, and felonies – carry mandatory jail sentences and much longer license revocations.

Legal Limits and Breath Alcohol Tests

For those twenty-one years or older, the legal limit is .08%; for those under 21 the limit is .02%. If you took a breath test that is under or right at the legal limit of 0.08 or 0.02, the State of NH can still try to prove you guilty for being "under the influence," but you should not face an administrative license suspension.

Commercial Drivers and CDLs

DWI laws in NH state that if you hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), but are not charged with operating a commercial vehicle, the limit is the same as the limit that would be applicable to you on a regular DWI, 0.08 or 0.02 for those under 21.

Drivers charged with operating a commercial vehicle while under the influence not only face more serious penalties, but also are subject to a .04% limit. Even at lower levels, commercial drivers may face other penalties, for it is unlawful to drive a commercial motor vehicle with any detectable presence of alcohol.

Learn more about the effects to your CDL of New Hampshire drunk driving charges.

Out-of-State Drivers Convicted of DWI in New Hampshire

If you hold a driver’s license in some state other than New Hampshire, you should know that you likely face the suspension of your driver’s license in your home state if you are convicted of DWI in New Hampshire or if the New Hampshire Department of Safety revokes your right to operate in New Hampshire.

More information for Connecticut drivers.

More information for Massachusetts drivers.

More information for Maine drivers (coming soon)

More information for Vermont drivers (coming soon)

New Hampshire DWI Penalties

The mandatory penalties for DWI-1st offense are as follows: Minimum fine of $500.00, maximum $1200.00, plus a 24% penalty assessment. Mandatory minimum license loss of 9 months, which may be reduced to as little as ninety days based on conditions. Maximum license loss is two years.

Drivers under 21 face much higher minimum drunk driver penalties under NH DUI laws.

If you are charged with the more serious offenses of class A misdemeanor aggravated DWI or DWI 2nd offense, you face a mandatory jail sentence under NH DWI law if convicted and a substantially longer minimum license loss than for a regular, first offense DWI.

If you are charged with the more serious offenses of aggravated DWI or DWI 2nd offense, you face a mandatory jail sentence if convicted and a substantially longer minimum license loss than for a regular, first offense DWI.

For any DWI conviction, you will have to complete a state-approved DWI education program of a minimum of twenty hours in length prior to restoration of your license, unless you have completed one already within the last five years.

Read more extensive information on penalties for DWI convictions.

Collateral Consequences of Drunk Driving Convictions

There are many “collateral consequences” of DWI convictions – the SR-22 requirement, higher
insurance rates, probationary licenses, a bar on entry into Canada, an inability to rent cars from
most car rental agencies for years, and increased penalties for future motor vehicle offenses.

Read more specific information on the collateral consequences of a DWI arrest.

Driver's License Suspension

Separate and apart from the Court case: if you either refused to submit to a chemical test requested by the police, or if you refused to perform physical tests after being arrested, or if you submitted to a test that is at or over the specific legal limit applicable to you, you will receive a notice of suspension from the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles.

That suspension will be for no less than 180 days and can be for two years.

In the case of your refusal to submit to a chemical test, the so-called Administrative License
Suspension (ALS) law makes that loss consecutive with any other license loss.

You are entitled to a hearing on the legality of the revocation order — a hearing at which the arresting officer and chemical test operator must appear and subject themselves to cross-examination by your lawyer.

BUT you must request such a hearing in writing in strict conformity with Department of Safety regulations. If you do not request such a hearing by notifying the Department of Safety within thirty days, you can lose your right to a hearing.

Read more on Administrative License Suspension.