It would be helpful if DWI laws were straightforward and simple, but all too often they find themselves mired in statutes and technicalities that make it difficult for the average person to know what is and isn’t illegal.
Rather than force you to go through New Hampshire’s DWI laws piece by piece, we’ve put together this useful guide. It is our hope that this will help you avoid putting yourself in a position to be charged with a DWI. If you have already been charged, you may also find it helpful to brush up on DWI FAQs in the hopes that you may find something that will help with your case.
Let’s start simple. What does DWI stand for?
DWI stands either for Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Impaired. Since alcohol is not the only substance that can result in a DWI charge, it is more helpful to think of Driving While Impaired as the correct definition.
Do I have to be driving my car to be charged with a DWI?
No. It only needs to be proven that you were operating the vehicle on some level. Even if you are sitting in your parked car and listening to the radio, you are leaving yourself open to potential DWI charges.
What is the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit in New Hampshire?
The legal limit in New Hampshire is 0.08% for drivers over the age of 21, and 0.02% for drivers under the age of 21. If you don’t have a breathalyzer handy, there are plenty of helpful guides from reputable sources to help you estimate your BAC level, such as this one from HealthStatus.com, or this one from DrivingLaws.org.
Should I consent to a breath test?
If you have not been drinking, there is little reason to be afraid of a breath test; however, if you believe you are at risk for a DWI, refusing a breath test is likely your best course of action. Since a breath test over the legal limit will be used against you when your case comes before a judge, facing the consequences of refusing the test, while not ideal, may still be preferable to the consequences of a DWI conviction.
What will happen if I refuse a breath test?
If you refuse a breath test, under New Hampshire law your license will be suspended for a minimum of six months and maximum of two years, depending on your past driving record. Police are also permitted to note the fact that you refused to submit to a test when you come before the court. These are negatives, but, depending on the strength of your defense, are likely preferable to a conclusive DWI test.
Aren’t breathalyzers notoriously unreliable?
There are many known issues with breathalyzers that a good DWI lawyer should be able to exploit. Breathalyzers are known to have a margin of error, and are also prone to misreading BAC levels due to residual alcohol in the mouth. In addition, officers administering a breath test are supposed to be certified to use the equipment, which can produce a false reading if used improperly. Hiring a qualified DWI lawyer who knows how to take advantage of these possible missteps can be critical to mounting a successful defense, especially if you have already submitted to a test.
Can I call my lawyer before deciding whether to take a breath test?
This is up to the officer’s discretion. In New Hampshire, you are not legally guaranteed the right to counsel in this situation.
Can I lose my job for getting a DWI?
Most likely, yes. Most employees in New Hampshire are “at-will” employees, which means that they can essentially be fired at any time. While there are a handful of exceptions to this rule, unless your contract specifically states that you are not an at-will employee or cannot be fired for a DWI offense, your employer can legally fire you should they elect to do so.
Do I have to tell my boss about my DWI? Will they find out?
You are not legally obligated to tell them about your arrest, but it is possible that they may read about it in the newspaper’s arrest logs. Be aware of the terms of your contract and employee conduct policy. It is possible that your specific employer may have language built into them requiring you to notify them of an arrest or conviction, and some of those may have mandatory firing policies. Ask your lawyer what your course of action should be. For those between jobs, remember that background checks are commonly conducted during the job application process, and a DWI conviction would almost certainly be revealed during this process.
Is a DWI a felony?
Most of the time, a DWI is a misdemeanor, but there are a number of factors that could cause it to be upgraded to a felony. If you have recorded four DWI charges in under 10 years or your DWI resulted in an accident causing injury or death, your charge may be upgraded to a felony DWI. The penalties for a felony DWI conviction are significantly greater than those resulting from a misdemeanor, and could result in significant jail time. You should hire a DWI lawyer to combat any DWI charge, but if you are facing a felony DWI charge, your need is even greater.
Will I face jail time for a DWI?
If you are facing your first DWI charge, it is unlikely that you will spend time in jail; however, repeat offenders generally face between 17 and 150 days. A good DWI lawyer can often get this sentence suspended, but the court’s patience will thin quickly. As previously stated, a fourth charge in under 10 years will qualify as a felony, and the likelihood of jail time increases dramatically.
When should I hire a DWI lawyer?
You should seek representation immediately for any DWI charge. While you may think you have a firm grasp on DWI, the importance of having an experienced DWI lawyer who has a thorough understanding of both the law and legal procedures cannot be overstated. Your chances of mounting a successful DWI defense go up exponentially with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer.
When faced with DWI charges, review this helpful guide. Then, call the law offices of Bernstein & Mello at (603) 595-1600 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We can help you review your options and begin work on your defense right away.