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What's In the Habitual Offender Statute?

The state of New Hampshire has a habitual offender statute specifically for driving offenses such as driving while intoxicated (DWI). The statute is found in RSA § 259:39. If you are classified as a habitual DWI offender and you are caught operating a motor vehicle, then you will be sentenced to required jail time. Classification as a habitual offender will also result in lengthy license suspension periods. In New Hampshire, certification as a habitual offender is based on a 5 “rolling year” rather than a calendar year.

How Is Someone Classified As a Habitual Offender?

  • 3 major motor vehicle violations
  • 2 major and 4 minor motor vehicle violations
  • 1 major and 8 minor motor vehicle violations
  • 12 minor motor vehicle violations

Any of these, if they occurred within a five rolling year period, can call for habitual offender certification. Rolling year means that the certification is based upon the dates of the violations.

What Is Considered a “Major” Motor Vehicle Violation?

  • Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
  • Reckless operation of a motor vehicle
  • Negligent operation of a motor vehicle
  • Operation while license is suspended
  • Disobeying a police officer's orders

This is not a comprehensive list of major motor vehicle violations, just the most common ones. For a comprehensive list, visit the New Hampshire Department of Safety Division of Motor Vehicles.

If you have reached habitual offender status, then the DMV is required to send you notification. The notification will explain what violations warranted the habitual offender certification as well as notify the respondent of the hearing to follow. Anyone who receives notice of habitual offender classification has the right to a hearing. At this hearing, the respondent could contest the license suspension and habitual offender classification.

I Was Classified As a Habitual Offender. When Can I Get My License Back?

Length of driver's license suspension is up to the discretion of the DMV, but standard suspension of a driver's license is one to four years. After this period is over, the driver'. They will have to petition for a license reinstatement. This is called a “decertification” and similar to the certification hearing, you must request this hearing. Shaheen & Gordon can help individuals who want to contest habitual offender certification as well as those who wish to file the Decertification from Habitual Offender Revocation form.

Can I Appeal a NH Department of Safety Hearing Decision?

Yes. You are allowed to appeal the decision following these administrative hearings. See RSA § 262:25 for the laws on appeals of habitual offender hearing decisions. To learn more about habitual offender status, certification, decertification or appeals, please do not hesitate to contact a New Hampshire DWI attorney at our firm today.