New Hampshire Felony DWI Lawyer

Arrested for a felony driving while intoxicated offense in New Hampshire?

Tragically, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) cases turn into Felony offenses in a variety of circumstances, including accidents resulting in serious death or bodily injury. DWI death and injury cases necessarily implicate complicated scientific, legal and factual issues. However, defending these cases requires a comprehensive approach, one that both accounts for the issues in a case as well as the condition of our clients and their families. We often meet our clients on dark days and apply our early energy to assisting them to return quickly to a positive and productive path.

From our early meetings, we establish a plan to defend the charges and confront a range of other issues that routinely surface in DWI death and injury cases, including press concerns, alcohol and drug treatment and the emotional fallout as all parties to a case address the grave circumstances surrounding the death or injury to a person involved.

Relying on our background as former prosecutors and our experience defending these cases, we work with our clients and their families to size up the potential penalties, identify important legal and scientific issues and craft a plan to strategically respond to any issues in and out of court. A New Hampshire DWI attorney from our firm can shape a defense to the circumstances of every case. We believe it is our obligation to zealously prepare our cases for trial while, at the same time, relying on the depth of our preparation to determine if any reasonable opportunities exist to resolve our cases without a court room battle. Where compromise fails, we put our best foot forward in court, relying on our trial experience to focus on a single task: winning. Where diplomacy prevails, we turn to our knowledge of the court system, relationships with law enforcement and prosecutors, and creativity to minimize the consequences to our clients.

The Potential Charges and Penalties

New Hampshire law treats DWI and OUI cases as a Felony in many different situations. A Class B Felony offense for Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated occurs where there is a serious bodily injury and an allegation of impaired operation of a motor vehicle, recreational vehicle (OHRV) or boat. A fourth offense DWI is also treated as a Felony. Either situation involves exposure to substantial sentences. A conviction for Aggravated DWI involving a serious bodily injury calls for as much as a 3 ½- to 7-year prison term, but imposes a minimum mandatory sentence of not less than 21 days, 14 of which are served at the House of Corrections and 7 of which are served at a multiple DWI offender intervention program.

There is also a minimum 18-month license loss and a maximum 2-year license loss, six months of which may be suspended with enrollment in the required alcohol program as well as substantial fines and ignition interlock obligations. A Felony for a Fourth DWI offense may result in a lengthy prison sentence, but requires, at a minimum, 6 months in jail, 30 nights of which must actually be served followed by a 28 day residential treatment program. Importantly, a fourth offense DWI also calls for an indefinite license loss with the right to petition for the return of a driving privilege after 7 years.

There are a range of legal issues that commonly surface in impaired driving death and injury cases which require our defense attorneys to craft a blended approach to defending them by identifying constitutional, scientific and common sense issues.

Our DWI defense team focuses on staying on top of the latest legal and scientific issues that arise in these cases and apply that knowledge to assisting our clients in defending these cases.

Blood Test Evidence

Law enforcement typically seeks blood evidence from a suspect in death and injury cases, which sounds simple, but actually gives rise to a variety of legal and constitutional challenges. By statute, New Hampshire law purports to allow law enforcement to demand blood samples in any case where there is a collision resulting in serious bodily injury or death, even without a search warrant. Our DWI team has identified a constitutional defect in this statute. Specifically, the current statute permits blood testing where “the officer has probable cause to believe the driver has caused the collision or accident.” However, causing a collision or accident is not, in and of itself, a crime. Accordingly, our DWI lawyers have regularly challenged the use of this statute to permit blood draws on constitutional grounds, successfully arguing that the statute is defective for permitting a search for blood without cause to believe that a crime actually occurred.

In other instances, law enforcement seeks to secure blood and blood results through the use of a search warrant and/or grand jury subpoena. These efforts may call for the production of otherwise confidential health information. While recent changes in the law purport to carve out exceptions to the doctor-patient privilege, substantial room for legal argument exists to challenge such law enforcement efforts. Our defense attorneys are well positioned to execute such arguments. Our firm is one of the largest in the State and includes criminal defense as well as health care lawyers. Where the case calls for it, our criminal lawyers rely on the depth of our firm’s expertise in a variety of areas to bring pressure to bear on their cases, assessing whether any avenues exist to quash a subpoena or call into question the propriety of information collected through the execution of a warrant. Similarly, any search warrant for such evidence must be supported by probable cause to believe that evidence of the crime will be found in the blood that is the subject of a search. Our attorneys regularly analyze law enforcement affidavits used to support search warrants in these cases, generating motions to suppress evidence, questioning whether probable cause was really present to support the search.

Our DWI team turns to experts whom they regularly rely upon to contest blood and breath results. As time passes, alcohol and drugs are digested in the body, something regularly referred to as the “burn off” rate. Tests for the presence of alcohol and drugs are limited in that these results reflect the presence of drugs or alcohol at the time that the sample is taken and not at the time that the accident actually occurred. In the time in between, blood results change, sometimes dramatically, either going up or down depending on a variety of circumstances. Our attorneys work with our clients to establish a timeline, assess the consumption of alcohol or drugs, collect information about height, weight, age and food consumption and then, in certain circumstances, enlist the assistance of experts to analyze the information and determine whether there may be any viable challenge to the State’s impairment claim.

Accident Reconstruction and Vehicular Autopsies

Critically, DWI death and injury cases require the State to prove that the driver was the “cause” of the accident. Impairment by alcohol and drugs, standing alone, is not necessarily the cause of an accident. Road conditions, weather conditions and mechanical problems may likewise cause accidents. Examining these issues may create defenses, and our attorneys leave no stone unturned.

Our team regularly relies on accident reconstruction experts to recreate accident scenes. This is particularly important in New Hampshire where weather, road conditions and road construction regularly result in traffic accidents.

At times, the experts we turn to visit scenes. At other times, they simply review the State’s accident reconstruction reports. In either case, we apply a comprehensive approach to understanding how an accident actually occurred. Vehicle positioning, skid marks, yaw marks and the condition of a road are often issues that exist in such cases and, where they exist, our team is positioned to advance any appropriate defense to protect our clients. Our firm will also demand evidence from vehicle inspections, because equipment failures may have contributed to the tragic accident.

A Serious Bodily Injury and Medical Records

In cases involving a “serious bodily” injury the State bears the burden of establishing that an accident resulted in an injury of this type. The term “serious bodily injury” is established by statute and interpreted by New Hampshire cases. Serious bodily injury includes any harm to the body which causes severe, permanent or protracted loss of or impairment to the health or of the function of any part of the body. Therefore, not every injury is a serious one and our experience tells us that the State often overcharges these cases by relying on superficial injuries, cuts and abrasions to create a Felony offense where one should not exist. Further, medical records are often necessary in order for the State to make its case. The State often prosecutes Aggravated DWI cases even where the serious bodily injury is suffered by the impaired driver. In such situations, the State typically seeks medical records by request, subpoena or search warrant.

Fighting Your Felony DWI with NH Attorneys from Shaheen & Gordon

The legal issues implicated by law enforcement requests for medical information from an allegedly impaired driver are quickly evolving and involve an understanding of the physician-patient privilege and the laws that relate to privacy of health care information. This nuanced area of the law may supply defenses to State efforts to secure otherwise protected health care information. A recent series of New Hampshire Supreme Court opinions further describe when law enforcement may use grand jury subpoenas and search warrants to request health care information. These opinions create a framework for requests for health care information as well as objections to such requests. Simply stated, proving serious bodily injury is not a simple task and defending this element in the State’s case requires our lawyers to understand the injury and analyze how the State secured its evidence in order to identify any possible defenses.

Our team of exceptional New Hampshire DWI lawyers are up for the challenge. If you've been arrested and charged with felony drunk driving, contact us today.

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