New Hampshire DWI Attorney
DWI Lawyers with Offices in Concord, Dover & Manchester
The attorneys at Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. aggressively defend DWI cases.
Our DWI defense team is comprised of former prosecutors and seasoned defense
lawyers who have been trained to understand how the State builds its cases
and to apply that knowledge to securing the best available results in
drunk and impaired driving cases. Our approach is to actively prepare
for trial while exploring opportunities to resolve each case in a manner
that avoids long-term license losses and, in certain cases, incarceration.
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We defend drunk driving and impaired driving cases in New Hampshire, Maine,
and Massachusetts. In New Hampshire, charges for impaired driving are
typically referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI), but other terms
are also are also commonly used to describe this offense. These include
driving under the influence (DUI) or operating under the influence (OUI).
Our NH DWI lawyers appear in court week in and week out, as well as in
administrative hearings. They understand the draconian impact that a simple
license loss may have on employment matters and family obligations. With
this understanding as a backdrop, they work to create opportunities to
resolve cases reasonably, but stand ready to take cases to trial when
New Hampshire DWI attorneys regularly try cases and are proud of their results, regularly securing
of "not guilty" verdicts on behalf of our clients.
Defending these cases requires an understanding of the complicated laws
that apply to drunk driving cases, the administrative license suspension
process, the manner in which the State relies on standard field sobriety
testing (SFST) to build its case and the scientific underpinnings of DWI
cases. Our work doesn't end when the case is over in court. We educate
our clients regarding issues relating to reinstatement of driving privileges
DWI Practice Areas
Administrative License Suspension Process
New Hampshire law imposes serious consequences in impaired driving cases.
Administrative penalties and court imposed sentences follow DWI convictions.
New Hampshire does not offer "hardship" or "Cinderella"
licenses. As such, we work to minimize long term license losses for our clients.
A standard first-offense DWI is a crime. The court imposed penalty for
a first offense DWI conviction is changing in 2013 and requires completion
of an Impaired Driver Intervention Program ("IDIP") as well
as submission to an alcohol and drug abuse screening within 14 days of
a conviction. If concerns for substance abuse surface from that screening,
a full substance use disorder evaluation is required within 30 days of
conviction. Recommendations from that evaluation must then be followed.
A first offense DWI conviction results in a court imposed license loss
from between 9 months to 2 years, but 6 months of that license loss may
be suspended upon completion of all programing requirements.
There are additional administrative penalties in DWI cases. Refusing requested
breath or blood testing or submitting to a breath or blood test with a
breath alcohol content (BAC) exceeding a 0.08%, will result in an administrative
license loss of six months for a first offense. There is a 2 year administrative
license loss for subsequent offenses.
Understanding this administrative process is important in defending DWI
cases in New Hampshire. Within 30 days of an arrest, our lawyers demand
an administrative hearing in order to object to the six-month suspension.
This is strategically important for several reasons. First, we wish to
contest the administrative penalty. Additionally, the administrative hearing
provides our attorneys with an important opportunity to negotiate the
case with police officers and prosecutors. Where those negotiations don't
bear fruit, the administrative hearing permits our New Hampshire DWI attorneys
a crucial opportunity to confront the arresting officer, cross examine
him or her and begin building a record which sets the stage for effective
New Hampshire law permits arresting officers to request a breath, blood
or urine test in drunk driving and impaired driving cases. The officer
has the discretion regarding which test to request. Law enforcement often
rely on breath test evidence in DWI cases.
Hand held breath tests, known as Preliminary Breath Tests ("PBTs")
are occasionally administered by law enforcement on the road side. There
are evidentiary limitations with PBT testing and suspects are not required
to take them. The state's own training materials recognize concerns
for the accuracy of PBT tests. Various PBT owners' manuals further
call upon officers to inquire about the last time that a suspect had anything
to eat or drink prior to administering a PBT test. They further call for
a waiting period prior to administering a PBT test.
Officers regularly fail to take these steps prior to PBT testing, resulting
in defenses to this type of testing in court. There are other challenges
to PBT testing as well. In criminal cases, defendants have rights to independent
testing and analysis of scientific evidence. However, PBT tests do not
create second breath samples, depriving those charged in DWI cases of
conducting additional testing to confirm or dispel PBT breath results.
Our DWI attorneys have relied on this defect to challenge and suppress
PBT evidence in court.
At the police department or State Police barrack, law enforcement typically
request a further breath test. In New Hampshire, they rely on an intoxilyzer
5000 machine, a "breathalyzer" machine. When a person consumes
alcohol, any alcohol that is not processed by the liver the first time
through eventually cycles through the bloodstream and to the lungs, where
a portion evaporates and becomes evident on the person's breath. Breathalyzer
machines measure the volume of alcohol vapor in a person's lungs to
determine their BAC.
Proper administration of this breath test requires a 20 minute waiting
period, must be conducted by a certified breath test operator and the
machine must be properly maintained and calibrated. Refusal to take the
breath test at the station or submitting to this breath tests with a result
exceeding a BAC of 0.08 will result in an administrative suspension of
6 months for a first offense and 2 years for a subsequent offense. These
administrative penalties are in addition to the penalties for a DWI conviction
in court. The legal team at Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. understands the
sensitive nature of breath test evidence, examines the details of breath
test results and may determine whether or not you are the victim of police
misconduct or a mechanical error. We defend DWI cases week in and week
out in courts and administrative proceedings and regularly challenge DWI
charges based on breath test results.
The impact of a DWI conviction is serious in any case. For those holding
a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), a DWI case can result in serious
professional consequences, including job loss. Drunk driving standards
and penalties are stricter for commercial drivers, such as truck drivers
and bus drivers. Unlike the standard 0.08% BAC required for a DWI arrest
of a normal motorist, anyone who holds a commercial drivers' license
(CDL) and is driving while intoxicated in their line of work can be arrested
with a mere 0.04% BAC. Sharper administrative penalties apply to CDL holders.
A refusal of a breath test for a CDL holder, results in a 1 year administrative
A second refusal results in a life time CDL suspension. Any DWI court conviction,
even in a non-commercial vehicle, will result in a 1 year CDL license
loss. A second offense conviction results in a life time CDL license loss.
Based on these penalties, a garden variety DWI can turn into a life altering
event for those holding a Commercial Driver's License. Our firm strives
to supply its clients the best DWI defense attorneys and our team works
to minimize and avoid the impact that a DWI conviction can have on those
that rely on driving privileges to maintain employment and support their families.
Our firm can investigate your charges and arrest to determine whether or
not there were adequate grounds to arrest you. Breath and blood test results
can be faulty due to misconduct or mechanical error, and the results of
field sobriety tests can be affected by a medical condition, fatigue or
fear. A skilled New Hampshire DWI lawyer can fight your charges and protect
you from losing your license and your job.
Drivers' License Restoration
Our representation does not end with the administrative process and the
conclusion of a case in court. Our DWI lawyers educate our clients regarding
restoring their driving privileges when they are eligible to do so. Following
a DWI conviction, restoration of driving privileges typically requires
payment of a restoration fee, proof of program completion and an SR-22,
which is proof that your privilege to drive is insured even after a DWI
conviction. These restoration obligations may differ, however, depending
on the case. Drivers under the age of 21 must typically attend a further
administrative hearing in order to reinstate driving privileges after
a DWI conviction. Our DWI defense team can help in this process.
Requesting an administrative hearing is critical to defending drunk driving
and impaired driving cases. Law enforcement typically requests a breath
or blood test during impaired driving investigations. Refusal of a breath
or blood test or submission to a test with a breath alcohol content exceeding
a 0.08 results in an administrative license loss. The administrative suspension
for a first offense is 6 months. It is 2 years for a second or subsequent
offense. This penalty begins to run within 30 days from the time that
the administrative license suspension form is served on the suspect and
even before a conviction in court.
Accordingly, an accused driver has only 30 days to operate a motor vehicle
in the State of New Hampshire on a temporary privilege to drive. Within
these 30 days, our attorneys request an administrative hearing at the
Department of Safety in order to contest the administrative license loss.
The Department of Safety schedules these hearings quickly and they provide
an important strategic opportunity in DWI cases. Our attorneys use the
administrative process to begin to negotiate the case, often resulting
in offers by the state to drop the administrative penalty. Where these
negotiations falter, the administrative hearing gives our DWI lawyers
an opportunity to confront and cross examine the arresting officer on
By doing so, we are able to ask the officer about the reason for the stop,
performance on Field Sobriety Testing and the administration of any breath
or blood tests. Confronting the officer with these questions can lay the
groundwork for a more effective defense in court down the road should
a trial become necessary. Administrative DMV hearings are held at the
Department of Safety, not in a courtroom, and are presided over by administrative
hearing examiners and not judges. Our attorneys blend the administrative
process into their strategy to fight DWI cases and their assistance is
of critical importance in fighting DWI charges.
Our defense attorneys regularly represent clients in a wide range of administrative
hearings relating to driving privileges. In DWI and other motor vehicle
contexts, the Department of Safety regularly conducts hearings relating
to habitual offenders, youth operators, points suspensions, commercial
driver's license holders and possession of alcohol.
New Hampshire has a strict habitual offender law. Three major motor vehicle
violations within five years; two major and four minor motor vehicle violations
within five years; one major and eight minor motor vehicle violations
within five years or twelve minor motor vehicle violations within 5 years
typically results in certification as a habitual offender. The New Hampshire
Department of Safety will hold a certification hearing and a decertification
hearing in order to determine habitual offender status and assess a period
of license loss. Habitual Offenders suffer a license loss from between
one to four years. Operation after certification as a Habitual Offender
is a Felony and is punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence of one to
five years of imprisonment.
Commercial Driver's License holders are held to higher standards and
convictions for motor vehicle offenses may result in suspension of commercial
driver's license privileges. However, NH RSA 263:95 states that "[p]rior
to disqualifying a driver under this section, the commissioner shall provide
the driver with notice and an opportunity for a hearing." Our lawyers
regularly appear at Department of Safety hearings to contests suspensions
of CDL privileges.
Youth operators or drivers under the age of 21 years old suffer license
losses for simple motor vehicle violations. A first offense results in
a 20 day license loss, a second offense results in a 45 day license loss
and a third offense results in a 90 day license loss. However, a youth
operator may request a hearing prior to the imposition of such a license
loss and our lawyers can help. By regulation, the Department of Safety
considers a number of factors when determining if such a license loss
should apply, including the length of time that an operator has held his
or her license, the seriousness of the offense and other extenuating circumstances
such as the impact on a commute to school or work. We regularly work with
young drivers to avoid or minimize these license losses in administrative hearings.
New Hampshire has a demerit point system resulting in suspension of driving
privileges based on the accumulation of points for motor vehicle offenses.
Our lawyers regularly evaluate motor vehicle records, understand the law
that relates to points and assist clients to avoid and minimize license
losses based on points.
Convictions for underage possession of alcohol may result in an administrative
license loss in New Hampshire even where the conviction had nothing to
do with driving. Effective representation in such cases can avoid this
administrative license loss. Our defense attorneys regularly avoid this
conviction altogether through negotiation or trial and where there is
a conviction, they regularly succeed in convincing the prosecutor and
court to stamp the back of the complaint to avoid this administrative
Even after you have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol
or drugs, you may be able to file an appeal to have your case reconsidered.
In New Hampshire, first offense DWI cases are tried before the circuit
court and decided by a judge, not a jury. Our DWI attorneys pursue appeals
from first offense cases for legal error and insufficient evidence to
the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Aggravated and subsequent DWI convictions
have exposure to mandatory jail sentences. These cases are tried in the
first instance before a circuit court judge.
Convictions may be appealed, however, for a jury trial before the Superior
Court. From there, any legal errors may form the basis of an appeal to
the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Our DWI defense team can advise you of
your appellate rights, identify legal errors and pursue appeals where
possible. We understand that effective DWI defense includes both exceptional
trial work and appellate advocacy. Our criminal lawyers have pursued appeals
at all levels of the criminal justice system and stand ready to defend
your case at all stages of the process.
Law enforcement aggressively investigates and prosecutes DWI cases in
New Hampshire. DWI investigations typically begin with officer observations
of a vehicle in motion, continue through an officer's first contact
with a suspect and then field sobriety testing. Arrests for DWI must be
made based on probable cause or some proof that a person has committed
the offense of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both.
Our attorneys are regularly confronted with close calls, cases where law
enforcement escalate what should be considered a simple motor vehicle
stop to a DWI arrest and prosecution. Our DWI team regularly calls into
question whether probable cause really existed to ground an arrest. Effective
DWI defense requires consideration of all phases of a DWI investigation
and where there is insufficient basis to ground an arrest, our DWI lawyers
are ready to pursue the issue through negotiations and in court.
The first step in the DUI process is a police stop. Local officers and
state troopers may stop a vehicle where there is reasonable suspicion
that the operator has committed a motor vehicle violation or other criminal
offense. Police officers are trained to make observations of potential
driver impairment while observing a vehicle in motion. There are series
of clues for driver impairment that officers are trained to observe, including
drifting and weaving to erratic speed and disregard for traffic signs
and signals. Once an officer makes a DUI stop, he or she makes contact
with the driver, noting odor of alcohol, slurred or deliberate speech
and glassy or blood shot eyes.
Police tend to ask questions regarding the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
Where suspicion of impaired driving exists, officers will request that
the driver exit the vehicle in order to submit to Field Sobriety Testing
(FSTs). Certain of these tests are standardized and include the Horizontal
Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), a nine step walk and turn test and one leg
stand test. Police officers are trained to observe clues for impairment
during each of these tests. They collect these clues to establish probable
cause to make an arrest and request that a suspect submit to a breath
or blood test. Refusing this test or submitting to a test yielding an
alcohol content exceeding a 0.08 will result in an administrative license
loss. Additionally, police will likely pursue criminal charges for Driving
While Intoxicated, which must be defended in court.
Our criminal defense attorneys defend DWI cases throughout New Hampshire,
southern Maine and Northern Massachusetts, regularly delivering victories
after trial to our clients. Our DWI lawyers have been trained in the administration
of field sobriety testing and use that training to challenge DWI charges.
Our team includes former prosecutors, they understand how the state builds
its DWI case and rely on that experience to pick those cases apart. There
are a number of defenses and no case is the same. Physical limitations,
mental health concerns, age, clothing, weight and officer intimidation
all may play a role in the contesting field sobriety testing and defending
DWI cases. Our DWI lawyers understand the impact of a criminal conviction
and the consequence of a license loss on our client's professional
and family obligations and work with our impaired driving clients both
to build an effective defense and plan for the future.
DWI Penalties - First Offense
Driving under the influence of drugs or liquor is a crime in New Hampshire.
RSA 265-A:2 prohibits driving or attempted driving a vehicle on a way
in the State of New Hampshire while under the influence of intoxicating
liquor or any controlled drug or a combination of intoxicating liquor
and controlled drugs. A breath or blood result is not required for the
State to make its case. However, this statute states that a person is
considered impaired where they have an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or
more or in the case of a person under the age of 21, 0.02 or more.
DWI cases result in both a court case and an administrative case before
New Hampshire's Department of Safety. DWI penalties are defined in
RSA 265-A:18 and make clear that a first offense conviction in court is
a crime, a Class B Misdemeanor. However, the statute permits that the
criminal offense may be reduced to a Violation, which is a non-criminal
event, after one year from the conviction date. The penalties for a DWI
conviction are changing in 2013 and our DWI defense team has stayed on
top of these changes. A first DWI conviction calls for a minimum license
loss of 9 months and a maximum license loss of 2 years.
However, 6 months of this penalty may be reduced based on completion of
required alcohol programing, leaving a 90 day minimum license loss for
cases with the minimum sentence. Following a DWI first offense conviction,
the court makes a referral to an IDCMP for an alcohol and drug abuse screening
within 14 days of conviction and, if testing demonstrates the likelihood
of a substance use disorder, a further full substance use disorder evaluation
is required within 30 days of conviction. Recommendations for treatment
from these evaluations must be followed. Additionally, a person convicted
of a first offense DWI must complete the Impaired Driving Intervention
program, which is a 20 hour alcohol education program plus any recommended
follow up. There is also a fine of $500. Where the court thinks it appropriate,
it may also require an ignition interlock device and random urinalysis.
Separate from the court penalties, a DWI arrest also triggers the Administrative
License Suspension process through the New Hampshire Department of Safety.
There is a 6 month administrative license loss for a first time refusal
of a breath or blood test or where such a test is taken and results in
an alcohol content exceeding 0.08. In the case of a refusal, the administrative
suspension is added to the court imposed license loss. In a case where
a client submits to the requested testing, the administrative penalty
runs at the same time as the court imposed license loss.
After an arresting officer or trooper serves administrative license suspension
paperwork on a client, he or she may continue to operate on a temporary
basis for 30 days. Within this same 30 day period, our attorneys request
an administrative hearing to object to this license loss. This hearing
occurs at the New Hampshire Department of Safety and is strategically
important in defending DWI cases. The hearing often provides our attorneys
a valuable opportunity to negotiate. It also allows our New Hampshire
DWI lawyers to question the arresting officer or Trooper on the record,
developing important theories for defense should the case proceed to a
trial in court.
DWI Consequences - Subsequent Offense Convictions
The penalties for subsequent DWI convictions are set out in RSA 265-A:18
and include required jail sentences. The penalties relating to Subsequent
Offense DWI convictions are changing in 2013, calling for increased jail
sentences, making the aggressive defense of these cases all the more critical
to defending our clients.
A second offense DWI conviction within two years of the first conviction
is a Class A Misdemeanor and calls for a minimum 60 day jail term, fine
of $750 plus Penalty Assessment and alcohol and/or drug assessment and
treatment. Thirty days of this 60 day jail term may be suspended, however,
based on scheduling of a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days
of release, completion of the required substance use disorder evaluation
within 60 days of release and compliance with the service plan.
Failure to comply with the program developed from this evaluation will
result in the imposition of the suspended portion of this sentence. In
addition to these penalties, subsequent offense DWI convictions require
installation of an ignition interlock device for one to two years following
reinstatement of driving privileges. In sum, this means that persons convicted
of a second offense within two years of the first must serve 30 days in
jail with the risk for an additional 30 days in jail based on failure
to meet program obligations. Subsequent offense convictions also typically
result in a two-year administrative suspension.
A second offense DWI conviction within 10 years of the first offense, but
outside of two years from the first conviction is a Class A Misdemeanor,
calls for a minimum sentence of 17 days in the House of Corrections, a
3 year license loss, a fine of $750 plus Penalty Assessment and alcohol
and/or drug assessment and treatment. Twelve days of this jail sentence
may be suspended, however, based on scheduling of a substance abuse disorder
evaluation within 30 days of release, completion of the required substance
use disorder evaluation within 60 days of release and compliance with
the plan for treatment developed during this evaluation.
Failure to comply with the treatment plan, may result in the imposition
of the suspended 12 days in jail. In addition to these penalties, subsequent
offense DWI convictions require installation of an ignition interlock
device for one to two years following reinstatement of driving privileges.
In sum, this means that those convicted of a second offense DWI within
10 years of a first conviction, but out outside of 2 years from the first
conviction, must serve a minimum of 5 days in jail and risk an additional
12 days in jail based on non-compliance with treatment obligations. Subsequent
offense convictions also typically result in a two-year administrative
Third Offense DWI Convictions are treated as a Class A Misdemeanor, require
indefinite revocation of driving privileges, a fine of $750 plus Penalty
Assessment, 180 days at the House of Corrections and alcohol and/or drug
evaluation and treatment. Of this 180 day jail sentence, 150 days may
be suspended based on scheduling a substance use disorder evaluation within
30 days of release, completion of the required substance use disorder
evaluation within 60 days of release and compliance with the plan developed.
The license loss is indefinite, however, a person may petition the court
to reapply for a driver's license within 5 years. Where the person
shows good cause for restoration, the court may grant eligibility. After
a court grants eligibility, the person may apply to the Department of
Safety for restoration of driving privileges where the person must demonstrate
compliance and completion of program obligations and that all fees have
been paid. Fourth Offense DWI convictions are felonies and discussed under
the section entitled "Felony DWIs."
There are several collateral consequences to consider in DWI cases as well.
The accumulation of multiple major motor vehicle driving convictions inside
a five-year period may result in habitual offender consequences including
long-term license losses and jail. Further, DWI convictions result in
six points against a New Hampshire privilege to drive. Accordingly, the
defense of DWI cases requires a careful examination of our clients'
motor vehicle record to guard against these difficult consequences.
Aggravated DWI penalties are likewise harsh. Certain Aggravated DWIs are
treated as felonies calling for substantial jail and prison terms and
are addressed in the section of our site relating to Felony DWIs. However,
the typical charge for Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated arises because
of a breath or blood result of twice the
per se limit or a 0.16, an allegation of impairment coupled with speed in excess
of 30 miles per hour over the limit or where the person attempts to elude
the police officer or trooper. The court imposed penalties for an Aggravated
DWI are changing substantially in 2013. Most Aggravated DWIs are a Class
A Misdemeanor, resulting in a minimum 17 day sentence at the House of
Corrections, an 18 month license loss, a fine of $750 plus Penalty Assessment
and alcohol and/or drug abuse evaluation and treatment.
However, 12 days of this House of Correction sentence may be suspended
based upon scheduling of a substance use disorder evaluation within 60
days of release and compliance with the service plan developed. Failure
to meet program recommendations may result in the imposition of the suspended
12 days in jail. Six months of the court imposed license loss may also
be suspended based on compliance with the service plan and installation
of an ignition interlock device for the period of the suspension and/or
one to two years. In sum, this means that a person convicted of a standard
Aggravated DWI must serve a minimum of 5 days in jail and a one year license
loss and risk the further imposition of the suspended 12 days in jail
and 6 months of a license loss based on failure to meet program obligations.
Aggravated DWI cases also typically involve an administrative license
loss of 6 months for a first offense.
There are several collateral consequences to consider as well. The accumulation
of multiple major motor vehicle driving convictions inside a five-year
period and may result in habitual offender consequences including long-term
license losses and jail. Further, DWI convictions result in six points
against a New Hampshire privilege to drive. Accordingly, the defense of
DWI cases requires a careful examination of our clients' motor vehicle
record to guard against these difficult consequences.
DWI Felony Cases
Felony DUI charges occur when a person commits a fourth DWI, or is charged
with Aggravated DWI based on a collision resulting in serious bodily injury.
A fourth DUI conviction is a Felony in New Hampshire, punishable by a
lengthy jail or prison sentence, a fine of up to $4,000 plus Penalty Assessment,
an indefinite license loss and substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
While a sentencing court may impose a substantial stand committed prison
sentence in the case of any Felony, a fourth offense DWI calls for a mandatory
minimum jail sentence of 180 days at the House of Corrections.
Of this 180 day jail sentence, 150 days may be suspended based on scheduling
a substance use disorder evaluation within 30 days of release, completion
of the required substance use disorder evaluation within 60 days of release
and compliance with the plan developed. The license loss is indefinite;
however, a person may petition the court to reapply for a driver's
license within 7 years. Where the person shows good cause for restoration,
the court may grant eligibility. After a court grants eligibility, the
person may apply to the Department of Safety for restoration of driving
privileges where the person must demonstrate compliance and completion
of program obligations and that all fees have been paid.
Aggravated DWIs become Class B Felony offense where there is a collision
resulting in serious bodily injury to the person driving or another person.
A Class B Felony is punishable by a sentence of up to 3 ½ to 7
years in prison and a $4,000 fine, however, there are some minimum mandatory
penalties in the case of a Felony Aggravated DWI. There is a minimum 35
day jail sentence in the House of Corrections. Twenty one days of this
sentence shall be suspended upon scheduling a substance use disorder evaluation
within 30 days of release, completion of the substance use disorder evaluation
within 60 days of release and compliance with the service plan developed.
There is also a minimum 18 month license loss, which may be reduced to
12 months based upon compliance with these treatment requirements and
installation of an ignition interlock device for the period of the suspended
sentence and/or 1 to 2 years. There is a minimum fine of $1,000 plus Penalty
Assessment. The court may require random urine screening. There is also
a 6 month administrative suspension imposed for a first offense.
Felony convictions must be taken seriously. There are several collateral
consequences which flow from a Felony conviction. Employment applications,
loan applications and firearm ownership may all be impacted by felony
level convictions. The impacts of being a "felon" may be lifelong,
substantially redefining a person's liberty, family and employment
circumstances. Where the consequences are so grave, our attorneys can
help. We work with clients and prosecutors to develop a plan and a path
to mitigate against these consequences where possible. In other instances,
our NH DWI lawyers try cases, applying our decades of trial experience
to your charge.
Expungements - DWI
New Hampshire state law allows for expungement or "annulment"
of certain criminal convictions, however, those laws apply differently
to DWI convictions. RSA 265-A:21 describes when a person may seek to annul
a DWI conviction. Unlike an average Misdemeanor offense, a person may
not seek annulment of a DWI conviction for 10 years after the date of
conviction. Like any offense, a DWI can be stigmatizing and strain professional
and personal relationships. We regularly assist clients seeking to "clean
up" their criminal record and this includes clients wishing to expunge
the record of a DWI conviction.
Field Sobriety Tests
New Hampshire police officers and state troopers have been trained to
conduct a series of standardized field sobriety tests or FSTs on the roadside.
In turn, our defense attorneys have also been trained on these tests and
rely on that training to highlight the imperfections in such testing and
create reasonable doubt in our cases. There are three standardized Field
Sobriety Tests which officers rely upon to establish Probable Cause to
make a DWI arrest and then use to prove operator impairment. There are
several additional tests that our defense attorneys also see from time to time.
The standardized tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test,
the 9 step walk and turn test (WAT) and the One Leg Stand test (OLS).
Officers are trained to observe a series of clues during each of these
tests and then rely on those clues to assert that an individual is impaired.
Understanding the administration of these tests is crucial to an effective
DWI defense. Our attorneys demand and then analyses the police report,
compare it to the Standard Field Sobriety testing manual and identify
those clues that were not present during testing. They then confront the
State's case, often making powerful arguments that performance on
Field Sobriety Testing was far better than the officer would make it seem
based upon a reading of the police report, alone.
The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), involves an officer conducting
sweeps with a pen, flashlight or finger back and forth in front of a suspect's
eyes. Each sweep in this test should be timed and has a specific starting
and stopping point. The scientific underpinnings of this test have been
challenged in court. While New Hampshire Courts will admit this test at
trial, the State bears the burden of establishing that the officer was
trained to conduct it and that it was properly administered. The case
law further indicates that the State cannot rely on this test, alone,
to establish impairment beyond a doubt. It regularly occurs that an officer
has difficulty describing the administration of this test and, where this
is the case, our attorneys are ready to move to suppress the results.
Our attorneys understand the nuances of this test and rely on that understanding
to challenge this evidence.
Law enforcement also relies on a nine-step walk-and-turn (WAT) test and
a one-leg stand (OLS) test to support DWI cases. Each of these tests identifies
a series of clues that are consistent with impairment. To attack this
type of testing, our attorneys thoroughly confront law enforcement with
the various clues that they are trained to observe, but that might not
be present in any given case. For instance, the nine-step walk-and-turn
test, includes a flurry of clues, including: starting the test early,
stepping off the line, stopping, counting incorrectly, failing to hit
heal to toe, using arms for balance, and conducting an improper turn.
Likewise, the One Leg Stand test includes clues for touching down before
the expiration of 30 seconds, using arms for balance, hopping and swaying.
By pointing out the clues not present, we create questions regarding the
strength of the State's impairment case.
Defending motor vehicle cases requires much more than a zealous courtroom
defense. It also requires an understanding of the collateral consequences
which may follow a conviction. New Hampshire has a harsh Habitual Offender
law, calling for the certification of those with a serious motor vehicle
record as a Habitual Offender, resulting in the imposition of a 1 to 4
year license loss. The accumulation of major and minor motor vehicle violations
results in Habitual Offender certification pursuant to RSA 259:39. Habitual
Offender certification results from 3 major motor vehicle driving violations
in a period of five years; a combination of 2 major and 4 minor motor
vehicle driving violations in 5 years; a combination of 1 major and 8
minor motor vehicle driving violations in 5 years; or 12 minor motor vehicle
driving violations in five years.
Major offenses include, but are not limited to, convictions for DWI, Reckless
Operation, Negligent Operation, Operation After Suspension and Disobeying
a Police Officer, among others. Those certified as a Habitual Offender
receive a 1 to 4 year license loss following a hearing at the Department
of Safety. Operation after certification as a Habitual Offender is a Felony
offense, calling for a minimum mandatory 12 month jail or prison sentence.
Exposure to Habitual Offender certification can define the strategy in
a case. For instance a simple DWI charge may become much more serious
where a conviction could also result in Habitual Offender status. Our
NH DWI attorneys account for the Habitual Offender law, identify cases
with Habitual Offender exposure and fashion a plan to address these serious
consequences, often taking cases to trial with the plan of avoiding a
conviction and, in turn, avoiding certification as a Habitual Offender.
Major Motor Vehicle Offenses
New Hampshire's Habitual Offender Law categorizes major and minor
motor vehicle offenses. Major motor vehicle offenses include DWI, Reckless
Operation, Negligent Operation, Operation After Suspension and Disobeying
a Police Officer, among others. As majors, convictions for these offenses
can trigger certification as a Habitual Offender, resulting in a 1 to
4 year license loss.
There are also enhanced demerit points that may apply for convictions to
certain major motor vehicle driving offenses. Operation of a motor vehicle
after certification as a Habitual Offender is a Felony and calls for a
one year minimum jail or prison sentence. Our New Hampshire DWI attorneys
know the motor vehicle code, size up their motor vehicle cases and account
for both points and habitual offender exposure when defending major motor
vehicle driving offenses, such as DWI. We develop a strategy to defend
cases where such exposure exists, taking cases to trial where necessary.
Original License Suspension
For our youngest clients, a simple minor motor vehicle driving violation,
such as speeding, may result in significant penalties, including a license
loss. Our motor vehicle defense attorneys understand full well that such
a license loss doesn't just punish the driver, but also his or her
family, burdening efforts to commute to school and work. In New Hampshire,
youth operators or drivers under the age of 21 years old suffer license
losses for simple motor vehicle violations pursuant to RSA 263:14. A first
offense results in a 20 day license loss, a second offense results in
a 45 day license loss and a third offense results in a 90 day license
loss. The best defense to these license losses is to avoid a conviction
Our NH DWI lawyers regularly defend young drivers in court even in the
most straightforward motor vehicle cases. Through negotiation and trial,
where necessary, we often avoid convictions. Where convictions do occur,
a youth operator may request a hearing prior to the imposition of such
a license loss and our lawyers can help. By regulation, the Department
of Safety considers a number of factors when determining if such a license
loss should apply, including the length of time that an operator has held
his or her license, the seriousness of the offense and other extenuating
circumstances such as the impact on a commute to school or work. We regularly
work with young drivers to avoid or minimize these license losses in administrative hearings.
New Hampshire is a popular destination for tourists, business people and
students, many of whom are licensed in another state, but operate a motor
vehicle here. When a person is charged with DUI in New Hampshire, but
their license was issued in another state, they will still be prosecuted
in New Hampshire, risking a New Hampshire court imposed and administrative
license losses. This very often results in consequences at home as well.
New Hampshire is part of the Interstate Driver License Compact along with
most other of our sister states. Among other things, the purpose of the
Compact is for one state to recognize convictions that issue from others.
The compact typically requires that one state give the same effect to
the conduct that it would as if the conduct had occurred in that state.
Simply stated, this means that the offender may also be penalized under
the laws of their home state, resulting in compounded penalties. The compact
specifically applies to DWI cases. Therefore, it is important to understand
the New Hampshire risks of a DWI conviction as well as the risks that
will flow from that conviction in the driver's home state. We regularly
defend impaired driving cases on behalf of Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont
drivers as well as visitors from states far and wide.
Based on this experience, we can assist a client to understand the New
Hampshire consequences and, in certain cases, the likely exposure to a
conviction at home. Some cases require that a client further consult with
an attorney in their home state in order to appreciate the exposure that
a New Hampshire DWI or other motor vehicle offense will have on their
privilege to drive. In any case, it is critical for our lawyers to both
defend the case and assist a client to anticipate the likely impact that
a DWI conviction and administrative suspension will have on them, including
in cases where our clients come to us from states near and far.
In New Hampshire, motorists accumulate demerit points when they are convicted
of a certain traffic violations. The number of points varies from offense
to offense, and the penalty is a license suspension. Defending motor vehicle
cases doesn't just occur in court. Our defense lawyers take the time
to size up the collateral consequences of any courtroom conviction, including
the assessment of points for motor vehicle driving violations.
Driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, Operation After Suspension,
Conduct After An Accident, Disobeying a Police Officer, Reckless Driving
as well as a myriad of other serious motor vehicle offenses will result
in the assessment of six demerit points. Four points are assessed for
Driving Without a License, speeding 25 miles per hour or more above the
posted limit and improper passing or a yellow line violation, among others.
A simple speeding ticket or other traffic ticket typically results in
an assessment of 3 points.
The term of the license suspension depends on the offender's age and
the number of points accumulated in a set period of time. For drivers
under the age of 18, there is up to a 3 month license loss for the accumulation
of 6 points, which means that a DWI will result in a points suspension
in addition to the other court and administrative penalties imposed for
that offense. There are longer license losses for the accumulation of
12 points in two calendar years or 18 points in three calendar years.
For drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 years old, the accumulation
of 9 points in one calendar year will result in a license loss of up to
3 months with longer license losses based on the accumulation of 15 points
in two calendar years or 21 points in three calendar years.
For drivers 21 years old and older, there is up to a 3 month license suspension
for the accumulation of 12 points in one calendar year with longer license
losses for 18 points in two calendar years or 24 points in three calendar
years. There is 6 hour defense driving/attitude course available for those
concerned about points, which allows you to subtract 3 points from your
point assessment such that the points remain on your motor vehicle record,
but are not counted toward license suspension. If you are concerned about
the accumulation of demerit points based on multiple motor vehicle driving
offenses, you should consider consulting with an attorney prior to pleading
guilty and sending the ticket in for payment. Our New Hampshire DWI attorneys
defend motor vehicle offenses and can assist you to account for points exposure.
Possession / Transportation of Drugs & Alcohol
New Hampshire may suspend your license to drive for 60 days for the simple
possession or transportation of alcohol or drugs in a motor vehicle. Possession
or transportation of alcohol in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle
is a violation even for people over the age of 21 where the seal of the
container is broken. Open containers of alcohol must be transported in
the trunk area of the vehicle or, in vehicles with no trunk, they must
be transported in the compartment least accessible to the driver. Transporting
alcoholic beverages is a Violation and shall result in a fine of $150
for a first offense and may result in a license loss of up to 60 days.
Possession and transportation of a controlled drug in a motor vehicle is
a crime in New Hampshire pursuant to RSA 265-A:43. It is a misdemeanor
and is punishable by a fine as well as a minimum license loss of 60 days
and a maximum license loss of up to 2 years. Transportation of Alcoholic
Beverages by a Minor is a violation resulting in a license loss of 60
days. No person under the age of 21 may transport an alcoholic beverage
in any compartment of a vehicle except when accompanied by a parent, legal
guardian or a legal age spouse. This means that it is illegal for a driver
under the age of 21 to transport alcohol even if there is a passenger
of legal age in the vehicle.
New Hampshire imposes enhanced penalties and reduced standards for persons
under the age of 21 that are convicted of DWI. The per se standard for
determining impairment is dramatically reduced for operators under the
age of 21. Instead of an alcohol concentration of 0.08 for drivers of
age, it is a reduced 0.02 for drivers under the age of 21. A DWI conviction
for a person under the age of 21 results in a required 12 month license
loss, fine of $500 plus Penalty Assessment and alcohol treatment. Within
30 days of a conviction, the person must schedule a substance use disorder
evaluation, complete that evaluation within 60 days and then comply with
the plan developed.
Additionally, he or she must complete the Impaired Driver Intervention
Program, which is a 20 hour alcohol and drug education course as well
as any follow up recommendations which stem from that course. Restoration
of driving privileges may also be more difficult for drivers under the
age of 21, often requiring an additional hearing at the Department of
Safety prior to restoration of driving privileges. In addition to these
court imposed penalties, there is also an administrative suspension of
6 months issued by the Department of Safety.
The enhanced penalties applied to younger drivers in DWI cases are substantial
and our lawyers are prepared to help. We defend DWI cases throughout New
Hampshire, Southern Maine and Northern Massachusetts, understand the impact
that a long term license loss may have on education and employment opportunities
and prepare a defense with the goal of avoiding convictions or mitigating
the impact that flow from them.
Scientific Issues of DWI
Increasingly, the state of New Hampshire relies on scientific evidence
to prove drunk driving and impaired driving cases. In traditional cases,
the State seeks to administer a breath test at the police station or state
police barrack. The machine used by law enforcement in the state is known
as the Intoxilyzer 5000 and it is not infallible. It requires a specific
waiting period, instructions to the subject of the test, regular maintenance
and calibration, and administration by a certified breath test operator.
Critically, it tests alcohol content at the time the test is taken and
not at the time that a suspect was actually operating a motor vehicle.
In the time in between, alcohol content can change, sometimes dramatically.
It is possible for alcohol content to rise in the time that it takes for
the police to administer the test. Collecting information regarding a
client's height, weight, and alcohol and food consumption may permit
our attorneys to enlist an expert to challenge breath test evidence.
In addition to the typical test at the station, certain New Hampshire police
officers and state troopers often seek to administer a test on the roadside,
known as a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). There are several different
PBT devices in use in New Hampshire and the state's own training materials
call into question the reliability of this type of testing. As important,
preliminary breath testing implicates important constitutional concerns.
This type of test does not create a second sample for independent analysis
by our defense team. This defect results in constitutional and statutory
challenges to the admissibility of such evidence, arguments that our attorneys
have won in the state courts.
More and more, police officers and state troopers are requesting that our
clients submit to blood testing to examine both blood alcohol content,
as well as the possible presence of controlled drugs. In drug related
impairment cases, the State tends to rely on an expert to offer an opinion
that the presence of certain drugs at certain levels will result in impairment.
In our experience, the State often overreaches in coming to such opinions.
Our NH DWI defense attorneys frequently rely on experts in the field to
counter this evidence, an effort which can both result in an effective
defense at trial and an improved negotiating position.
Troubleshooting Reinstatement Issues
Our DWI defense team believes that its responsibilities don't end
at the close of a case in court. We seek to educate our clients regarding
the necessary next steps to reinstating driving privileges following a
period of license loss. After a DWI conviction, a driver must complete
any required program, which may involve the successful completion of any
"after care" obligations. There are insurance consequences because
those with a DWI conviction must secure a Form SR-22 from an insurance
company prior to reinstatement. There is also a reinstatement fee.
Following reinstatement in New Hampshire, the state issues a probationary
license for a period of five years. This means that a probationary license
holder cannot drive a motor vehicle with breath alcohol concentration
of 0.03% or more. Violation of this restriction results in administrative
license suspension, even without being "under the influence"
of alcohol. Further, the law requires that a probationary license holder
submit to a breath test and calls for additional administrative suspensions
for the failure to do so regardless of impairment.
Put our experience and knowledge to work for you. Let us help you navigate
through the legal mine field that results from a DWI charge. With the
consequences so severe, get the assistance of an experienced New Hampshire
DWI lawyer. It can make a critical difference in understanding your options,
negotiating a plea bargain or winning your case at trial.
Speak with a New Hampshire DWI lawyer from Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. today
to take aggressive action against your DWI charges. Our DWI defense team
includes former prosecutors. They are trained trial attorneys, understand
how the State builds its case and rely on that training to secure results
for their clients. They are in action week in and week out defending DWI
cases in court and in administrative hearings. They have developed good
working relationships with area prosecutors and police officers. They
work both to establish options to resolve cases and, at the same time,
prepare their drunk and impaired driving cases for trial.
They regularly try DWI cases and are proud of their track record of success,
delivering countless not guilty verdicts to their clients. Members of
our criminal defense team have been recognized for their work, including
being named to the Union Leaders "40 Under 40" list, are highly
rated on Avvo and included in
Super Lawyers® in the area of Criminal Defense.. Put their experience defending drunk
and impaired driving cases to work for you. Our legal team has been in
practice for more than three decades and is more than qualified to handle
your DWI/DUI case. Call Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. today to
contact a New Hampshire DWI attorney from our experienced legal team.