If you’ve been arrested on DWI charges in the state of New Hampshire, there are a few things you should know. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, a DWI conviction can result in a significant fine, loss of license, mandatory alcohol treatment, and even jail time. With such a wide range of potential penalties, having the right representation is essential. An attorney who knows the ins and outs of New Hampshire’s DWI laws can make the difference between a simple fine and time behind bars.
What is a DWI?
DWI stands for Driving While Impaired. In order to earn a DWI conviction, the state must prove two things: 1) that you were operating a vehicle, and 2) that you were impaired at the time. As unambiguous as this may sound, it actually leaves any good DWI lawyer with a fair amount to work with. What constitutes “operation?” And how does the state define “impaired?” Knowing the answers to these questions is about more than knowing how to escape a DWI charge–it can help you avoid putting yourself in a dangerous and legally precarious position in the first place.
What constitutes “impairment?”
Contrary to popular belief, “impairment” does not apply only to alcohol. In fact, there are a host of different substances that might constitute impairment. If the state can prove that you were operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled drug, the case will fall under DWI law; however, alcohol-related DWIs are easily the most common.
Driving after consuming alcohol does not automatically constitute impairment. In the state of New Hampshire, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 0.08% for those over the age of 21 (for those under 21, the legal limit is 0.02%). Depending on your body weight, having a drink or two generally will not result in a BAC over the legal limit. If you aren’t sure, check out this handy BAC chart made by DrivingLaws.org, or use a BAC calculator.
Please note that any BAC calculator or chart can only approximate your BAC levels, and should not be taken as fact. If you are uncertain whether you are over the legal limit or feel that you might be in any way impaired, you are always better off not getting behind the wheel of a car. Whether or not you are over the legal BAC limit, if you are obviously impaired you may still face DWI charges.
What constitutes “operation?”
The first thing to know is that you don’t actually have to be driving a vehicle to be arrested for a DWI. Although that statute is called “Driving” While Impaired, police need only to establish that you are operating a vehicle. Operating can have a wide range of definitions, but understand that if your key is in the ignition, you will likely be considered to be operating the vehicle. This means that even if all you are doing is sitting in your parked car and listening to the radio, you are still vulnerable to potential DWI charges.
Your location matters, too. It is easiest to prove DWI charges if you are driving on a public road. If you are sitting in your own driveway and an officer has not witnessed you actually driving your vehicle, your chances of launching a successful defense grow. It still is not a position in which you should put yourself, but knowing that your physical circumstances can impact your potential defense is important.
You’ve been pulled over. What now?
If you have been pulled over and believe you may be facing a DWI, there are four essential steps to giving yourself the best possible chance at a defense.
- Be cooperative. Produce your license and registration, as well as any other legal documentation the officer requests, such as your insurance information. Be cordial and polite. Although you should not answer any questions that might cause you to incriminate yourself, do not be rude or confrontational.
- Refuse breath tests and field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are subjective, and usually set you up for failure. Likewise, taking a breath test is a no-win proposition. If you know there is alcohol in your system, a breath test will produce hard evidence that will be used against you at a later date. Refusing to submit to a breath test will likely result in an arrest and fine, but it may help you avoid the much harsher penalties that would stem from a DWI conviction.
- Remain silent. Be cooperative with your arresting officer, but avoid making any statements that can be used against you at a later time. The 5th Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, and you are not legally obligated to answer an arresting officer’s questions. The smartest thing to do is remain polite but silent until your lawyer is present.
- Call a DWI lawyer. Call a lawyer immediately. Make no statements to police until your lawyer is present and can consult with you to determine your defense options. Be aware that you are not constitutionally guaranteed the right to counsel during the detainment process–whether or not you are permitted to contact your attorney for advice, such as whether to take a breath test, is entirely up to the discretion of the officer.
When do you need a DWI lawyer?
Never go it alone. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI, you should seek representation immediately. A good DWI lawyer can not only help create a defense strategy to give you the best chance at being found not guilty, but also walk you through the arrest process and help you avoid further incriminating yourself. DWI lawyers like those at Bernstein & Mello know the ins and outs of New Hampshire’s DWI laws, and can provide a steadying hand to guide you through this stressful period.
With over 50 years of collective experience, the attorneys at Bernstein & Mello have the knowledge and expertise you need to mount a successful DWI defense. If you find yourself facing DWI charges in the state of New Hampshire, you know who to call: (603) 595-1600, the law offices of Bernstein & Mello.