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New Hampshire DUI Blog - NH DWI GUY Attorney Dan Hynes

Welcome to my blog. I will try to give updates about important information, cases, and laws related to DWI/DUI throughout New Hampshire and the rest of the Country. Please note DWI laws are constantly changing. Speak with a qualified Attorney to understand how the law may apply to you.

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Rye Police Chief Requests the Public’s Assistance to Halt Drinking at Local Beaches

Chief Kevin Walsh, the police chief of Rye, New Hampshire, has made an appeal to the general public for their assistance after a number of alcohol related, serious accidents have occurred this summer. Chief Walsh attributed the sharp rise in DWI incidences to a prevailing attitude among beachgoers that it is acceptable to drink alcohol on the beach. He is requesting help to reverse this new trend.

Local Rye resident, Tom Beamer, stated: “We like to come down at night and have a cocktail and dinner sometimes on the beach. (I know it’s illegal) but who’s going to know that that vodka and tonic isn’t just tonic?”

Chief Walsh states that beachgoers are burying their cups and bottles in the sand. When uniformed patrols are noticed, drinkers are using their cell phones to text one another up and down the beach that police officers are present.

Currently, there are nine, full time police officers working in conjunction with the Liquor Enforcement Division who patrol Rye’s beaches. Members of this special division state that they are finding this lackadaisical attitude is crossing all age groups.

In an interview with WMUR, Chief Walsh made the following statement:

“An example I saw was there were folks I saw, I'm 51, that were my parents’ age, that went over to warn the adult kids that the police are here and I ended up writing a couple tickets for open containers. It’s everybody's mentality that this is OK. It’s not OK.”

Walsh stated that this blatant lack of regard for the law has led to more than 50 citations being issued since the end of June, with an additional four citations being issued to individuals who were under the age of 21. There have been a total of eleven arrests for driving while intoxicated during this same time period, and seven of these arrests have involved serious accidents, bodily injury, and property damage.

Chief Walsh states that his biggest worry is the same as everyone else’s – that eventually a death will occur because of an intoxicated motorist. With more than 100 New Hampshire residents killed statewide in DWI related crashes last year, his fears are valid. His hope is that, by appealing to the public, visitors to Rye and its local residents will set an example for one another.

In Rye, a citation for having an open container is accompanied by a monetary fine of $62.00. Town officials are currently considering raising the amount of the fine to act as more of a deterrent.

In the state of New Hampshire, there is no quicker way to put an end to your summer fun than to be arrested and charged with a DWI. A first offense DWI conviction is classified as a Class B misdemeanor and is punishable by monetary fines, the loss of your driver’s license, court mandated alcohol treatment, and a potential jail sentence.

While it might ruin your summer, a DWI charge does not have to ruin your life. If you have been charged with a DWI offense in the Commonwealth of New Hampshire, contact our law offices today to speak with an experienced NH DWI lawyer.

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Are You Familiar With the Long Term Consequences of a DWI Conviction?

Within the United States, driving while intoxicated (DWI) is the single most common criminal offense. Many conscientious motorists, who otherwise possess clean driving histories, have been arrested for and charged with a DWI. Suddenly, their lives have entered into a downward spiral from which it is difficult to emerge right side up.

If you are convicted of a DWI, there will be many ramifications you must face, and the effects of these consequences can linger on for years afterwards. Most NH motorists are familiar with the short term consequences of a DWI conviction: court mandated community service, imprisonment, mandated participation in alcohol treatment programs, monetary fines, higher insurance premiums, and suspension of your driver’s license, amongst others.

Unfortunately, it is the long ranging shockwaves from a DWI conviction that can cause the greatest negative effects. Even after your monetary fines have been paid and your legal obligations have been fulfilled, your DWI conviction can affect your life for a number of years. The first step in protecting yourself and your loved ones from the effects of a DWI conviction is to learn exactly how it can impact your life.

Just a few of the long term consequences of a DWI conviction include:

§  Revocation of Your Driver’s License – In the state of New Hampshire, a DWI conviction can result in your driver’s license being suspended for a period of 9 months to upwards of 2 years for a first time offense. Without your driver’s license, it becomes difficult to commute to and from work. If your position requires you to be able to drive, it can result in the loss of your job. Losing the ability to operate your own motor vehicle is stressful, to say the least. Even running simple errands becomes a challenge, and it can affect your ability to enjoy a social life.

§  Background Checks – Before hiring a new employee, most employers will conduct a background check. A misdemeanor or felony DWI conviction is going to appear on any background check that is run and can thwart your best efforts to secure employment. Other areas a background check influences include housing applications, financial aid applications, and admissions applications to institutes of higher education. Landlords frequently run background checks on housing applicants, and this could potentially jeopardize your chances of obtaining the home or apartment you’d like to rent.

§  Employment – Your current vocation can be affected by a DWI arrest and conviction. Community service hours, court dates, and potential jail time will have a negative effect on your ability to work during your scheduled hours. Moreover, job seekers are placed at a disadvantage if they have a DWI on their record. In this tight economy, this can be the deciding factor on whether or not they are able to find gainful employment.

§  Automobile Insurance Rates – Following a DWI conviction, your auto insurance rates are going to increase significantly because motorists who have been convicted of a DWI are classified as “high risk” motorists by insurance providers. It is not uncommon to see monthly rates double, or even triple, and they will stay this way for several years. In some cases, an insurance provider will terminate an offender’s coverage altogether.

§  Professional Relationships – A DWI conviction can have an adverse effect on how you are viewed by your employer and your fellow coworkers. Even if you attempt to keep it under wraps, it is not uncommon for news outlets to publish a weekly list of DWI arrests. Depending upon your employer’s policies regarding criminal arrests and convictions, there is a possibility you could lose your job.

§  Personal Relationships – Following an arrest for any type of crime, it is common to suffer from feelings of embarrassment and shame. Expect your friends and family members to be concerned about your well-being following your arrest, and they may be overly attentive to your behavior. You may become resentful or irritated if they attempt to pry into your personal life and want to discuss your drinking habits.

An arrest or conviction for a DWI can produce devastating repercussions for years afterwards. The best method of avoiding all of these negative ramifications is to avoid drinking and driving altogether; however, mistakes do happen. If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law offices today. Time is of the essence in DWI cases, so do not delay.

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Where Is That Drink Going?

Have you ever paused and wondered, after spending an evening eating out with friends, what your blood alcohol content (BAC) levels are? Do you ever think about it when you are getting into your vehicle after having a few drinks during the big game? Although you feel just fine at the moment, have you ever considered whether or not the effects of drinking will get worse while you are on the road? How long can you expect the effects to last?

These are just a handful of scenarios that commonly occur when it comes to driving and consuming alcohol. Our clients are often surprised to learn that it is possible to roughly calculate what their BAC levels are before they get behind the wheel of a car. In fact, there are websites and apps that will make the calculations for you!

In the arena of criminal defense law, DWI cases are one of the most complicated fields. The vast number of cases that arise each year, coupled with the large percentage that are appealed, produce a consistent barrage of new case law. To make matters more complicated, this case law is often conflicting, and a DWI lawyer must be able to assimilate it all. Because the landscape of the laws surrounding DWIs is frequently changing, your New Hampshire DWI attorney, in order to effectively manage your case, must be able to stay on top of it all.

One field in which your lawyer must be wholly knowledgeable is how the human body handles alcohol.

Before you ever take that first sip of your first drink, your own body has produced a specific amount of alcohol. By itself, on average, the human produces the equivalent of one shot of alcohol – thanks to internal fermentation and digestive processes. So, without ever consuming a single drink, your blood alcohol content will already register the presence of alcohol. A Breathalyzer test or blood test, should you be tested, will display the presence of alcohol in your system. Although it will generally never impair you, there is a baseline presence of alcohol in your system at all times.

After consuming your first drink, your body begins to absorb the alcohol immediately. First, the alcohol makes its way into your stomach. At the same time, a small amount is being absorbed into the lining of your esophagus and mouth. Likewise, a small amount of the alcohol is also immediately absorbed into your blood stream. Once the alcohol has settled into your stomach, it begins to act upon it. On average, only about 20% of the alcohol you consume will be absorbed by your stomach. Your small and large intestines will absorb the rest.

From the moment you take your first sip and the alcohol enters into your bloodstream, it begins to have an effect on your body. Upon entering your bloodstream, the alcohol makes its way into your brain where the true effects start to take place. The effects are usually slight at first, but, as we are sure you know, the more alcohol you consume, the more pronounced the effects become.

The ideal method of gauging the effects of the alcohol you have drunk is to analyze individual portions of your brain. However, because this is an invasive procedure and something that law enforcement officials tend to frown upon, blood tests and Breathalyzer machines have been developed instead.

If you have eaten food at the time you are drinking, then the effects of the alcohol will be somewhat slowed, but will not halt it totally. Foods that are rich in protein and fatty foods are rather adept in slowing the absorption of alcohol. However, after the alcohol has entered your bloodstream, the effects are immediate. A moderate drinker will generally begin to feel the effects of alcohol consumption once their BAC levels have hit .03%. After your BAC levels hit .06%, your inhibitions lower considerably, and you will notice that your emotions have begun to intensify. A BAC level of .10% will produce a decrease in vision and perceptual acuity, speech, self-control, and balance.

As your blood alcohol content continues to increase, your level of impairment becomes much more noticeable to everyone around you – excluding yourself. The effects only become worse from there.

While there are specific factors that should be taken into account when considering how fast alcohol is absorbed into your system, its elimination rate out of the human body is generally fairly standardized. This rate generally does not vary from one person to the next, unless a person suffers from one of several different medical conditions.

The average individual (meaning one without an affecting medical condition) will eliminate, on average, .015% to .16% BAC levels each hour. For example, if your blood alcohol content is .08% (the standard legal limit), alcohol will still be present in your system 5 hours after you consumed your last drink.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that many “known” remedies for pushing alcohol out of your system are not actually effective. For example, taking a cold shower or drinking coffee will not really have any effect. Throwing up will have an effect, but only because it removes alcohol from your stomach, which prevents it from being absorbed into your bloodstream. The science behind calculating one’s BAC levels is complex, but it is not complicated to control your BAC levels. Generally, it is recommended that you consume only one alcoholic drink per hour if you are a female and two drinks per hour if you are a male. Non-alcoholic drinks should be consumed between alcoholic beverages. Ideally, you should shy away from drinking carbonated beverages, because these drinks tend to increase the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol.

Furthermore, you should bear in mind that, whether or not you are intoxicated, a police officer can always pull you over and put you through the harrowing ordeal that is a DWI investigation. Most police officers will have already made up their mind whether or not they are going to arrest you before they make initial contact at your vehicle’s window. Drink responsibly. The only sure method of avoiding a DWI is to have a designated driver or to take a taxi home. However, should you be arrested for a DWI, please contact one of our experienced and skilled New Hampshire DWI lawyers today.

 

 

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The Unforeseen Consequences Of “One For the Road”

On a Tuesday night, Sarah is dining at a local restaurant with a close friend. The two women decide to share a bottle of fine wine. During their hour long dinner, Sarah nurses a single glass of wine. Towards the end of the meal, a second glass is poured, and she drinks this one as well. Noticing that it is becoming late, Sarah quickly downs the last of her wine and leaves the restaurant. Two blocks from the restaurant, she is pulled over by a police officer. After field sobriety tests have been administered, she is transported to the local police precinct to be given a Breathalyzer test. The Breathalyzer test determines that her BAC levels are .09% - just slightly over the legal limit for New Hampshire. She is subsequently booked on charges of driving while intoxicated and placed in jail.

However, in reality, Sarah’s blood alcohol content levels were much lower. If a blood test had been administered, rather than a Breathalyzer test, the test would have produced a result of .06%, which is well under New Hampshire’s legal limit.

One of the primary causes of error in the analysis of alcohol on one’s breath is simply subjecting the suspect to a test too early. Such tests are often administered while the subject’s body is still absorbing the alcohol. In the human body, alcohol absorption can continue for 45-120 minutes after the subject has finished drinking, potentially even longer. The peak absorption time generally occurs within 60 minutes. If food is present in the subject’s stomach, then the absorption of alcohol can be delayed by as much as four hours. Two hours is the average for most people.

During the absorption phase, how alcohol is distributed throughout the body is far from uniform. Uniform distribution, which is referred to as equilibrium, will not be achieved until the alcohol absorption is complete. Simply put, there are certain areas of the human body that will have a greater concentration of alcohol than other parts. One of the prime issues that arises from non-uniformity is that the presence of alcohol will be considerably higher in arterial blood than in veinous blood. During the peak absorption period, the blood alcohol content of arterial blood can be as much as 60% higher than the BAC levels of veinous blood.

This little biology lesson becomes particularly relevant in DWI cases because human lungs contain alveolar sacs that contain arterial blood – not veinous blood. Alcohol’s diffusion through these sacs and into the air of the lungs reflects the blood alcohol content of a person’s arterial blood. Consequently, the breath sample utilized by a Breathalyzer machine will be indicative of pulmonary BAC, which, as aforementioned, is considerably higher than the BAC content of veinous blood.

One of the most well-regarded experts in the field of blood analysis, after conducting extensive research, came to the following conclusion:

“Breath testing is not a reliable means of estimating a subject’s blood alcohol concentration during absorption…..

There is a significant likelihood that a given subject will be in the absorptive state when tested under field conditions.  Because of large differences in arterial BAC and veinous BAC during absorption, breath test results consistently overestimate the result that would be obtained from a blood test — by as much as 100% or more.  In order to have some idea of the reliability of a given breath test result, it is essential to determine by some objective means whether the subject is in the absorptive or post-absorptive state.  In the absence of such information, an appropriate value for the uncertainty associated with the absorptive state should be applied to all breath test results.  Simpson, “Accuracy and Precision of Breath Alcohol Measurements for Subjects in the Absorptive State”, 33(6) Clinical Chemistry 753 (1987).

University of Oklahoma Professor Kurt Dubowski is today’s most regarded expert in the field of blood analysis, and he agrees with Simpson’s findings. He issued the following statement regarding the matter:

“When a blood test is allowed, an administered breath test is discriminatory, because in law enforcement practice the status of absorption is always uncertain.”

The next time you are out for a night on the town, you might want to consider passing on having “one for the road”.

If you should be arrested and charged with a DWI in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law firm today to speak with one of our experienced New Hampshire DWI lawyers. Your initial consultation is free, and we will work closely with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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“Sir, Do You Know Why You Were Stopped?” Part 1

It is the question that each motorist dreads hearing. It is a scenario that no motorist looks forward to being in. New Hampshire police officers are infamous convincing motorists to incriminate themselves. They have undergone hours of training in order to perfect this practice. It is a common misconception that you can “talk” yourself out of a ticket if you admit to a minor offense that doesn’t seem so bad.

However, any admission you make in this scenario will ultimately cost you. Police officers do not invest their time in pulling over motorists for no reason at all; although, it does happen occasionally. Please believe that, if you have been pulled over, the officer knows exactly why he has stopped you. In asking you this question, he or she is making an attempt to see what he can persuade you to admit too. It is a game that all police officers learn in the academy.

On occasion, it does work. For example, a person who is pulled over for speeding might admit to having marijuana in their glove box. A motorist who is pulled over for running a stop sign might admit to having stolen property in the trunk of their car. An officer never knows what a person might admit too. Still, an NH police officer cannot pull a person over for no reason at all. Some type of traffic violation must have been observed. Today, we’re going to discuss the legal concept of “reasonable suspicion” and how it pertains to New Hampshire DWI cases.

Americans often take for granted many of the freedoms we enjoy. Many times, the only time these freedoms cross our mind is when there is discussion about one or more of them being taken away. Accusing a politician of attempting to limit our freedom of religion or freedom of speech can do a considerable amount of damage to their political campaign.

The United States of America is founded upon the legal rights of individuals, and each legal right that is granted to private citizens is designed to limit the powers of the government. For example, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in theory, is designed to enable American citizens to act as watchdogs over government actions and policies. The U.S. government cannot silence American citizens when it comes to criticizing the government.

The United States Constitution spells out the freedoms and rights American citizens enjoy. Most of these rights were written in reaction to the oppressive conditions that the original colonists were suffering from at the time our nation was founded. One of these basic rights is the ability to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the infantile days of our nation, colonists’ property and homes were frequently subjected to government searches and seizures at any time. It was by this scenario that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was designed and adopted. The Fourth Amendment explicitly states that American citizens cannot be subjected to random and unfounded search and seizures.

The protections afforded to citizens by the Fourth Amendment have been expanded by the United States Supreme Court and applied to traffic stops. In the 1968 landmark case of Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled that an individual can be pulled over and detained briefly by a law enforcement official if the officer believes that the person was involved in a punishable crime. If a police officer reasonably believes that a suspect is dangerous or armed, then the officer can legally search the suspect’s person for weapons. This scenario does not violate the protections of the Fourth Amendment. However, the search is required to be brief.

The notion of reasonable suspicion is a capable tool when placed in the hands of persons who aim to limit the unchecked powers of police officers when it comes to intruding on the privacy of private citizens. Choosing to pull over an automobile for no reason at all or for another unacceptable reason is simply not allowed.

When applied to New Hampshire DWI cases and other types of traffic stops, the reasonable suspicion doctrine necessitates that a law enforcement official must possess a valid reason for stopping your automobile. Except under very limited circumstances, police officers cannot pull over motorists at random. They must have observed the motorist engaging in some sort of traffic violation or have other reasonable suspicion that a crime is being (or has been) committed by the motorist in question.

The power to conduct searches and seizures serve as the very foundation of law enforcement, and it is a required tool for police officers to be able to conduct necessary criminal investigations. Without the legal ability to enter a home that is serving as a meth lab and collect evidence, officers would have a difficult time halting criminal activities. However, the Fourth Amendment and all related case law serves to limit these powers in a real sense.

Police officers and other law enforcement officials are required to abide a specific set of rules, and they must be able to capably defend their actions in a court of law. They must be able to testify as to why they entered a residential home or stopped a motorist’s automobile. In general, it is left to the discretion of a New Hampshire judge to determine if an officer’s reason for their actions is compelling and valid. Most judges are not afraid to lay down the law when officers become overly ambitious with search and seizure powers.

However, judges across the country walk a fine line between enabling law enforcement officials to adequately perform their criminal investigations and defending the legal freedoms of private citizens. If a defendant request a hearing regarding reasonable suspicion, then the hearing will either result in the suppression of evidence or in an affirmation of the police officer’s conduct.

We’re going to take a break here today, but turn in tomorrow when we discuss more in depth how reasonable suspicion hearings pertain to NH DWI cases.

In the meantime, if you are in need of a capable and experienced New Hampshire DWI lawyer, please contact our office immediately for a free consultation.

 

“Sir, Do You Know Why You Were Stopped?” Part 2

Picking up from our discussion yesterday, we’re going to take a look at how reasonable suspicion hearings relate to New Hampshire DWI cases.

One of the most prolific arenas from which reasonable suspicion rulings arise if the field of DWI cases. New Hampshire police officers are frequently on the prowl for intoxicated motorists, and in their eagerness, they often overstep the boundaries of reasonable suspicion when stopping a motorist without proper cause.

The reality is that police officers wish to stop almost every automobile on New Hampshire’s roadways after 11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Persons leaving restaurants, bars, and nightclubs often have been drinking, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. If police officers could legally stop each automobile, then DWIs would be almost non-existent.  However, in the process, they would routinely stop innocent motorists and destroy the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.

Here is a potential scenario: It is a Friday night on Halloween weekend. A local police officer has parked his cruiser within sight of a local bar. Right before the bar is scheduled to close, the officer observes a couple make their way out of the bar, to their car, and then leave the establishment. The couple begins driving down the road.

Because the police officer has been sitting in his cruiser for over an hour, he knows this couple has been in the bar for some time. He begins tailing the couple’s car – attempting to disguise his presence from the couple. Although he watches the couple closely for any signs that a traffic violation is being committed, the officer begins to think that this motorist might be driving just a little TOO well. In the officer’s mind, this is an instance of “the lady doth protest too much”.

After trailing the couple for several miles, he notices the male driver swerving slightly within his lane. He does not cross any dividers, nor does he leave his lane; however, he definitely swerved. The officer lights his car up and pulls the couple over. He goes on to conduct a DWI investigation and arrests the male for a DWI after observing him stumbling around after he leaves his vehicle.

An experienced New Hampshire DWI attorney will analyze the facts of this particular case and immediately recognize that there is a serious reasonable suspicion issue at hand. The DWI lawyer will file a legal motion with the court to request that the judge determine that whether or not the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct the stop.

In this particular scenario, the attorney would file a motion to suppress all of the evidence the police officer gathered after the traffic stop was initiated. If a judge ruled to suppress the evidence, it would be the same as having the case dismissed altogether. No seasoned prosecutor would attempt to prosecute a DWI case on the basis of what the officer observed before the stop.

Once the motion has been filed, the police officer would be called upon to testify to their collective experience in the DWI field. He will undoubtedly state that driving “too perfectly” is a sure sign that a motorist is intoxicated. However, is the officer correct? Is this a valid reason? What about the driver’s swerve within his lane? In this instance, there is a high chance that an experienced DWI lawyer would be able to have all evidence suppressed. Of course, this depends upon a number of different factors, but the chances are in the defendant’s favor.

Per the legal definition, reasonable suspicion must be based upon articulable and specific facts as opposed to a mere suspicion or hunch on the part of the police officer. The facts to which a police officer testifies to, when being interviewed in court, are examined not as to what the officer thought or believed, but as to whether or not a reasonable individual, in the exact same scenario, would have thought. Simply put, the police officer’s personal beliefs are irrelevant. What actually matters is whether or not a reasonable individual would have similar beliefs in the same situation. A police officer can also legally stop a motorist if he or she has probable cause to believe a crime has been, or is being, committed.

When it comes to DWI cases, there is only one legally recognized exception to the reasonable suspicion standard: DWI checkpoints and DWI roadblocks.

Law enforcement agencies can establish DWI roadblocks or checkpoints under specific circumstances. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that DWI roadblocks are legal – creating a single exception to the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. In certain jurisdictions, police officers are allowed leniency when it comes to DWI checkpoints. In others, they are not. Specific New Hampshire judges view roadblocks and checkpoints as a necessary tool in the detection of DWIs, and consequently, they provide police officers with a certain amount of discretion in how checkpoints are set up and conducted.

As one can see, the primary issue in a reasonable suspicion case is not to prevent a police officer from arresting you. Rather, it is to have all of the evidence a police officer gathers after stopping you dismissed. If the evidence in your case can be suppressed, then the case will subsequently be dismissed, and you will never have to appear before a New Hampshire jury. This tool can be quite powerful when placed in the hands of an experienced NH DWI lawyer.

Our New Hampshire DWI attorneys possess quite a number of years of experience and can quickly identify any reasonable suspicion issues that might arise from your case. To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, please contact our law offices today. We will schedule a meeting with you to discuss the facts surrounding your case, outline potential defenses, and explain how your case will progress through the New Hampshire court system. Time is of the essence in DWI cases, so please contact us today.

 

 

 

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New Hampshire, DWI Laws, & Negligent Homicide

By itself, a simple DWI charge in the state of New Hampshire can produce a number of negative ramifications. However, if another person is killed in a vehicular accident in which you are accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, the situation suddenly becomes much more serious. When a fatal or otherwise serious accident occurs in our state, police officers automatically examine all motorists involved for signs of drug or alcohol impairment. This fact remains true even if a motorist has been severely injured or passes away. Unfortunately, accidents involving motorists who are driving under the influence of alcohol are all too common. According to data recently released by the Century Council, the year 2011 saw nearly 10,000 individuals nationwide killed in crashes caused by impaired motorists. 27 of these deaths occurred in New Hampshire.

Recently, in the state of Tennessee, a male driver was formally charged with DWI manslaughter after he and his spouse were involved in a collision which involved their vehicle striking a tree. The 27 year old motorist, McKenzie Nattiel, was driving his automobile on Tennessee roadways with his wife in the passenger seat. After going around a curve too quickly, Nattiel lost control of his automobile, which resulted in the vehicle striking a tree. His wife, Michaela Alyecia Dewitt-Nattiel, incurred a number of severe injuries, and she sadly passed away at the local hospital early the next morning. As of now, McKenzie Nattiel is facing charges of DWI manslaughter because police officers at the scene discovered that his BAC (blood alcohol concentration) levels were well above Tennessee’s legal limit of .08%.

Negligent Homicide Charges In New Hampshire

In our state of New Hampshire, a fatality that occurs as a direct result of driving while intoxicated is often classified as negligent homicide. Per NH’s criminal state RSA 630:3 II, an individual can be formally charged with negligent homicide if they are the direct cause of another person’s death whilst “being under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a controlled drug or any combination of intoxicating liquor and controlled drug while operating a propelled vehicle”.

In our state, a negligent homicide that results from driving while intoxicated is classified as a Class A felony. You can face this type of charge if you were driving an automobile, recreational vehicle, or even a boat. Per our current state statutes, an intoxicated motorist who is convicted of this charge will be subjected to severe monetary fines, up to 15 years of imprisonment in the state penitentiary, and a number of other criminal sanctions and penalties. Moreover, a convicted motorist will automatically have their driver’s license revoked and will be unable to reapply to have their license reinstated for a minimum of 7 years. Should the convicted motorist have their driving privileges reinstated, then he or she will be required to use an ignition interlock device for a minimum of 5 years after the initial reinstatement.

If convicted of negligent homicide in the state of New Hampshire, the defendant will have a felony conviction added to their criminal record. Educational institutions and prospective employers frequently check a person’s criminal history before making a final decision, as do some landlords. Having this type of conviction on one’s record can result in the defendant’s application being denied.

Obtaining Evidence For NH Negligent Homicide Cases

For driving while intoxicated cases that result in the death of another person, blood evidence is what is being sought. In our state, police officers and investigators retain the legal authority to demand a blood sample from a motorist even when they have not obtained a search warrant. If the police officer possesses probable cause that a motorist was the direct cause of the accident, then they may request a blood sample from that motorist. Many DWI defense lawyers believe that there is a problem with this particular statute, and it has constitutionality has been challenged in a New Hampshire court of law before.

In instances where the death was purportedly caused by an intoxicated driver, the state requires that reasonable proof that the defendant cause the accident be provided. A skilled NH DWI lawyer will know and understand that intoxication and the presence of alcohol alone does not always act as the sole cause of an accident. More than likely, there are other contributing factors that can be uncovered through the employment of accident reconstruction.

Furthermore, it is also important to ensure that the vehicles involved in the accident are thoroughly examined. An automobile’s history can often reveal much information regarding the cause of an accident, and these causes may not always be readily apparent. Equipment malfunctions and faulty computers routinely cause devastating accidents, but state investigators frequently overlook these types of contributing factors. An experienced DWI attorney will demand that the state preserve valuable evidence, including the automobiles involved in the accident for inspection by experienced experts for the purpose of whether or not an equipment failure could have contributed to the cause of an accident.

The Importance Of Having the Right Legal Representation

The seriousness of a negligent homicide charge cannot be stressed enough. If you should find yourself in the unfortunate position of facing this type of charge, then it is imperative to ensure that you have a skilled and experienced NH DWI lawyer working on your behalf. An individual who is involved in a deadly accident with even the slightest trace of alcohol or drugs in their system could potentially be charged with negligent homicide.

Regardless of the specific circumstances surrounding your case, it is of the utmost importance that you have a thorough understanding of your legal rights in addition to what defense options are available to you. This is where our DWI attorneys can step in to offer their assistance. For more information regarding negligent homicide charges in the state of New Hampshire and how you can effectively combat them, please contact one of our New Hampshire DWI attorneys today. Your initial consultation is free.

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New Hampshire DWIs: What to Do If Your Child Is Charged With a DWI

For many parents, one of their worst nightmares is to receive a telephone call from a child who has been arrested. Nonetheless, mistakes do happen. Although your first instinct may be to react out of anger, do not compound the seriousness of the situation by mishandling your child’s call to you.

For an adult, the process of being arrested is frightening. For a minor child, it can be downright terrifying. The chances are high that, by the time they are able to call you for assistance, your child is going to be very upset. Your first step should be to calm them down. Your second step is to ensure that they remain quiet.

When talking to your child on the phone, do not make your child give an explanation as to what happened. In fact, you shouldn’t even ask them. Don’t let them explain. There is a practical reason for this. More than likely, your child has place their call from a booking desk. If so, then they are in the presence of a police officer who is supervising them. Their call will be overheard. If they are not at a booking desk, then they will be in some type of holding area, where there is also a risk of being overheard. Anything they say can potentially be used against them in a court of law, and it could be detrimental to their case. Calmly instruct your child to remain quiet and tell them that you can discuss the situation later.

If your child is a minor, then they cannot be questioned by police officers without your presence. If your child is not a minor, then they can be questioned without your presence, but you should encourage them not to waive their right to legal counsel or their right to remain silent. While they are in police custody, almost everything your child says will be documented and be placed in their file to be used at a later time, including court. Place a heavy emphasis on remaining quiet, calm, and courteous to those around them. What you should ask them is what they have been charged with, whether or not a bond has been set yet, and if it hasn’t, when you can expect for it to be set. These questions are the only ones that should be asked and answered over the phone.

In case your child is too distraught to listen to you over the phone, you can ask them to hand the phone to the jailer or police officer who is supervising them. Let your child know that you will see them as soon as possible and that help is coming.

Once a bond amount has been set for your child, your next step should be to remove your child from jail as quickly as possible. If you do not have the amount of cash needed to bond your child out on hand, then you can employ the services of a bondsman. A bondsman will post the monetary amount of the bond for your child, and you will be charged a specific percentage of the total amount for the bondsman’s fee. If, for some reason, you cannot post bond for your child, you should immediately contact the services of a skilled and experienced NH DWI attorney.

Though your child does have the option to be represented in a court of law by a public defender, there will be a much higher chance of minimizing the legal consequences of a DWI arrest by employing an experienced DWI lawyer. Although time is of the essence in DWI cases, invest time into researching local DWI attorneys in your community. After you have hired an NH DWI lawyer, any communications that pass between the lawyer and your child are 100% confidential. Expect that the lawyer will be unable to provide you with updates regarding the case even though you are paying for the bill.

New Hampshire has enacted strict penalties for underage motorists who are caught drinking and driving. A first time DWI conviction is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. Monetary fines for this offense can reach as high as $1,200.00, in addition to court costs. Although your child will more than likely not face jail time for a first time conviction, they could potentially lose their driver’s license for up to two years. They will be required to complete an Impaired Driver Care Management Program, and a New Hampshire court could require that an ignition interlock device be installed in their vehicle. Furthermore, there are some universities who could reject your child’s application for admission if he or she has a criminal record.

Under the right circumstances, a DWI arrest and conviction can affect the rest of your child’s future. New Hampshire treats DWI cases very seriously, and a conviction is often accompanied by severe penalties – especially for motorists under the legal drinking age. The process will not be easy on anyone who is involved. More than likely, when you receive that first phone call, you are going to be caught off guard, and you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. Selecting the right New Hampshire DWI attorney will make quite a difference towards building your child’s defense, as well as in providing your family with guidance and support through a difficult time.

If your child has been charged with a DWI in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law firm today. Your initial consultation is free, and we can provide the expert guidance and support you need to obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

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Are Current DWI Penalties Too Lenient?

Recently, several New Hampshire lawmakers have made headlines for calling upon legislators and lawmakers to introduce tougher DWI penalties and sanctions for both first time and repeat offenders. Their calls for tougher sentencing guidelines have been seconded by anti-DWI advocacy groups, like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Lawmakers cite cases, like the recent DWI arrest of a Buffalo, New York man who already had seven prior convictions for DWI, as a prime example of how justice is not being properly meted out.

The 32 year old, Seneca Street man, Alexander F. Snow, was involved in a hit and run accident in January of 2014 that left a city motorist seriously injured, and, according to official police reports, Snow was shortly thereafter involved in contributing to a second hit and run incident that involved a parked automobile. Fortunately, the city motorist has fully recovered from the injuries sustained.

Snow has only been charged with this most recent offense, but many are questioning how this man and repeat DWI offender obtained the opportunity to even be arrested again with his existing record. Moreover, how many other New York or New Hampshire motorists are currently on the roadways driving while intoxicated despite the fact that they have multiple prior DWI convictions.

In this particular case, the defendant has a history of prior DWI convictions and sentences that seems almost unbelievable at first glance. For his third DWI conviction, a felony level conviction leveled in 2007 in Lackawanna, New York, Snow was allowed to plead guilty and was given the maximum sentence of 1 to 4 years in prison. However, on his fourth DWI, which was incurred the following year in Buffalo, New York, he pleaded guilty as charged as a second felony. He only received a jail sentence of 8 months.

In 2010, Snow was pulled over by law enforcement officials in Grand Island. He was charged with a serious Class D felony, which he eventually plead guilty as charged too. However, the judge who presided over his case, unbelievably, only sentenced Snow to probation. As some point during this entire process, Mr. Snow’s driver’s license was suspended; however, this did not prevent him from stealing his mother’s SUV and striking several other automobiles. Police officers who made the most recent arrest stated that Snow openly admitted to being intoxicated.

The sequence of the subsequent penalties is mystifying to any experienced New Hampshire DWI lawyer. From a common sense standpoint, one would believe that, as the felonies multiplied, Snow would have been sentenced to increasingly longer stints in jail or prison in an effort to persuade him to obtain the help and assistance he requires to break his addiction to alcohol. However, it is a sad reality that the justice system does not always work this way.

In this particular case, the situation says more about the presiding judges than the defendant himself. In a scenario where a defendant has flouted and broken the same law repeatedly, how does he manage to receive punishments that are decreasing in severity? Obviously, such sentences are not effective at deterring such behavior.

You might believe that, because the Snow case occurred in the state of New York, it is not applicable to the state of New Hampshire. However, consider the following New Hampshire statistics for 2012:

§  A total of 14,675 New Hampshire motorists had two or more DWI convictions on their active records, which did include DWI convictions from other states.

§  In 2012, a Rochester man was arrested for his 12th DWI.

§  A Northwood motorist was arrested for his 11th DWI.

§  Six individuals had 10 DWI convictions, 12 had 9 DWI convictions, 17 had eight, 41 had seven, 109 had six, 294 had five, and 805 NH motorists had four convictions.

If a New Hampshire motorist is charged with a DWI, and has been convicted of a prior DWI offense (either in state or out of state) within the past 10 years, then he or she faces:

§  Mandatory jail time.

§  Required residential treatment at the motorist’s expense.

§  A mandatory loss of their driver’s license for a minimum of 3 years.

If the defendant is charged with a second DWI offense, and their prior conviction occurred within the last 2 years, then the motorist faces:

§  A minimum mandatory sentence of 30 days in their local jail with a maximum potential sentence of up to one year.

§  A required seven days of treatment at an approved New Hampshire DWI Multiple Offender Intervention Detention Program. Such programs, on average, cost approximately $1,200.00, which must be paid for by the defendant.

§  A mandatory loss of their driving privileges of three years.

§  A monetary fine that can range from $500.00 to upwards of $2,000.00, in addition to a 20% penalty assessment fee.

A New Hampshire motorist with a previous DWI offense occurring within the last 10 years and a total of three or more prior DWI offenses altogether can potentially be prosecuted for a Class B felony. If convicted, then the motorist could be sentenced to time in a New Hampshire state prison for a period of 3.5 to 7 years. Furthermore, he or she must complete a 28 day alcohol residential treatment program, paid for at their own expense, and cannot have their driving privileges reinstated for a period of 7 years.

If this small, but vocal, group of New Hampshire lawmakers has their say, then New Hampshire motorists who are convicted of second or subsequent DWIs could be in serious trouble. While such laws are required in order to prevent repeats of the Snow case, a DWI charge does not necessarily equate to a conviction. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DWI, please contact one of our experienced and skilled NH DWI attorneys today. Your initial consultation is free, and we will work diligently with you to obtain the best possible outcome in your unique case.

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An Explanation of New Hampshire DWI Jury Trials – Part 1

This blog is part 1 of a two part miniseries that will guide you through the significant aspects and experiences of a jury trial within the state of New Hampshire.

There are two primary types of trials in New Hampshire:  bench trials, which are conducted before a single judge (no jury), and jury trials, which are held before a jury of either 6 or 12 people who listen to all of the evidence and then determine your innocence or guilt.

Depending upon the specific type of DWI that you were formally charged with, your DWI trial may or may not be held before a jury.

Your Right to a Jury Trial In a DWI Case

Any individual who is charged with a criminal offense, including a misdemeanor DWI charge, retains the legal right to have a trial conducted before a jury of their peers. Should you choose not to have a jury trial and simply ask a judge to decide your case, then you must waive your legal right to a jury trial.

In the state of New Hampshire, traffic violations are not classified as criminal offenses, and because of this, are not deemed eligible for a jury trial. In some New Hampshire districts, if a defendant is being tried for their first DWI offense and the charge is classified as a Class A misdemeanor, then they may be entitled to a bench trial only, which is referred to as a de novo trial.

However, in a de novo trial, if a judge decides the defendant is guilty, then their decision can be immediately appealed to an NH Superior Court for a jury trial to be held.

Jury Trials vs. Bench Trials

Now the question becomes…should you choose to have a bench trial or jury trial in your own DWI case? This is where the skills and expertise of a seasoned DWI lawyer become invaluable.

Your NH DWI attorney will be able to offer their professional opinion and advice as to whether or not it would be beneficial for you to waive your legal right to a jury trial. A seasoned attorney will have, at the very least, a working familiarity with the local judge in your trial, and he or she may have conducted both bench and jury trials before this judge. Such experience will provide your lawyer with an accurate sense of the judge’s stance on DWIs and their ability to be fair-minded.

Another primary reason why your legal counsel might encourage you to forgo a jury trial is if there exist extenuating circumstances surrounding your particular case, like a significant accident, injuries, or even death. When such elements are involved, juries have a tendency to become emotionally involved and may find it difficult to separate their emotions from fact. In such circumstances, your case will be more fairly played out before a single judge who makes the final decision.

Jury trials also tend to require much more time than a bench trial does because a judge is required to offer a jury instructions regarding NH DWI laws and how to go about making a decision. Jury selection for a DWI trial can also take quite a bit of time, because both the defense and the prosecution have a legal say in the individuals who are chosen to sit on the jury. Likewise, lawyers for both sides of the case are required to invest more time into explaining and presenting evidence before a jury that does not possess the same legal background that a judge has.

Essentially what this boils down to is that the extra hours your NH DWI lawyer is required to invest in a jury trial will result in more fees that you must pay, and it can become expensive quickly, especially if you are paying your lawyer by the hour. However, depending upon the circumstances surrounding your case, the outcome may very well be worth the additional expenditures.

Another potential cost that you should be aware of involves the use of expert witnesses. Because the average juror does not have a legal background, there is more pressure to employ the services of expert witnesses to explain to a jury why the prosecution’s evidence against you is not reliable. In a bench trial, this type of evidence is usually not required.

Your New Hampshire DWI lawyer will be able to offer advice regarding which option, in their professional opinion, would be in your best interest. However, the final decision is ultimately yours to make, per your Constitutional rights.

The Presence of More People At Your Trial

In the state of New Hampshire, most criminal trials are open to the general public. However, other than the random law student who is observing the court, the majority of the individuals present in the courtroom will be directly connected to your case.

A judge will, of course, be present, as will a jury after they have been impaneled. A bailiff will also be present. The bailiff is the individual who issues the “All rise” command after a judge enters or exits the courtroom. The bailiff’s purpose in being in the courtroom is to provide order and security and to conduct witnesses to and from the room when it is their turn to testify.

Also in the courtroom, you will find a stenographer, whose job is to transcribe all sayings during the court proceedings. The prosecuting attorney for the state will also be present, and he or she may have clerks or assistants in tow. Your own lawyer will be present and may also have their own assistants present.

Naturally, your own presence is required, as will witnesses for both the defense and the prosecution; however, once the trial starts, they may not be in the actual courtroom since it could cause potential damage to their own testimony if they hear the testimony of other witnesses.

In the NH court system, witness sequestration is left to the court’s discretion and may not always be guaranteed, but your lawyer will more than likely request it anyways. It could become a potential issue to be argued on appeal if the outcome of your trial is unsatisfactory.

Check back tomorrow when we begin to discuss what to expect during your NH DWI trial.

An Explanation of New Hampshire DWI Jury Trials – Part 2

In continuation of yesterday’s discussion about New Hampshire DWI jury trials, today we’re going to discuss what you should expect during your own trial.

How Long Is My NH DWI Jury Trial Going to Last?

In general, jury trials frequently require considerably more time to conduct than a bench trial does. Time must be invested into selecting jury members and into conduction voir dire. Rather than presenting the evidence solely to a judge (who has extensive knowledge of the evidence’s ramifications and who is familiar with the law), the evidence will be presented before a panel of individuals who do not have any prior legal experience, which requires more explanation.

During a jury trial, lawyers must spend much more time justifying why the evidence they are presenting is of importance, why it is admissible in a court of law (chain of custody, accuracy of the testing equipment, etc.), how the evidence was obtained, and other similar factors that a judge would already be familiar with.

Another primary reason why DWI jury trials take up so much more time than a bench trial is due to the fact that a bench trial does not require the use of closing arguments because the presiding judge is already familiar with the law and how to interpret it. On the other hand, the use of closing arguments can be invaluable to a jury. Both opening and closing arguments establish a foundation for the jury, which enables the prosecution to summarize their arguments and a final plea to have you convicted of the DWI. At the same time, it simultaneously enables your defense counsel to paint your character in the best possible light, your case, and the reasons why you should not be found guilty.

Finally, rather than having a single woman or man make the decision regarding your innocence or guilt, 6 to 12 women and men must first discuss your case and attempt to reach a unanimous agreement.

Disadvantages and Advantages of a DWI Jury Trial

If the evidence the prosecution has gathered against you includes BAC levels of .08% or higher, then, in most instances, you will always be better off having your DWI case heard before a jury. It will also be much simpler for your experienced and skilled NH DWI lawyer to convince the jury that there are questions regarding the equipment used to analyze your breath, the tester’s training, or the accuracy of the methods used. Juries are also considerably more willing to hear arguments regarding chain of custody issues.

If you are the type of defendant who could sufficiently rouse the sympathies of a jury, then your lawyer will probably encourage you to choose a jury trial over a bench trial. Regardless of the instructions that the jury receives, each person is human. It is simply human nature to act favorably towards those who can elicit our sympathy. Conversely, it is also true that we tend to be harsher towards those whose appearances do not coincide with our expectations. If this is so in your case, then your DWI attorney may decide a bench trial will be more beneficial in your case.

Finally, bench trials are simply less expensive. A bench trial could also be more beneficial if your lawyer has crafted a strong case regarding why evidence should be suppressed or why criminal charges should be dropped because your legal and Constitutional rights were violated. A judge is going to be well-versed in the legal issues that surround your case.

Your DWI Attorney & Jury Selection

Should you choose to opt for a jury trial, then the first portion of the trial will be devoted to the selection of jurors. New Hampshire has established specific criteria regarding who is allowed to serve on a jury:

§  The prospective juror must be at least 18 years of age.

§  He or she must be a citizen of the United States.

§  They must be able to adequately read, write, speak, and understand English.

§  The juror must not have any prior felony convictions on their criminal record.

§  The juror cannot be physically or mentally handicapped to an extent that it would bar them from effectively serving on the jury.

Approximately once each year, a New Hampshire Clerk of the Court will compile a list of prospective jurors and their names and give the list to the court. Names of prospective jurors are gathered from county and town voter registration records, as well as DMV records.

After a juror has served their time, they are legally exempt from serving on a jury again for three years.

During jury selection, prospective jurors are required to disclose the following info:

§  Whether or not they expect to see benefit from the case’s disposition

§  Whether or not they are of any relation to any person involved with the defense or prosecutorial teams

§  Whether or not they have assisted or advised either side

§  Whether or not they have already formed a personal opinion regarding the case

§  What prejudices they might have regarding the case

§  Whether or not they have previously employed any of the lawyers involved in working on the case

If a juror purposefully misleads a court, then he or she will be dismissed. If their misleading was not intentional, it might not possess much significance, but it will be an avenue that your lawyer can explore with regards to a mistrial.

Once jury selection is complete, the trial then commences.

The Importance of New Hampshire DWI Attorneys

Having a fierce advocate working on your behalf is important in any DWI case, but should you choose to have a jury trial, rather than a bench trial, their skills and expertise become significantly more important. To speak with one of our skilled and experienced NH DWI lawyers, contact our law firm today via telephone, email, or through our website. Remember that your initial consultation is free.

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5 Predictions For the Future of New Hampshire DWI Cases

 

There is no doubt that, within the state of New Hampshire, DWIs are a big time business, and they garner big votes. Wherever voting and money is involved, you’ll discover laws that are implemented to place them in the deep pockets of those who will most likely benefit from it. The issue of DWIs is a political one that lawmakers can safely throw their weight behind, particularly when forces like the NHTSA and MADD come into play. Here are 5 predictions we have for the future of DWIs in New Hampshire:

 

1.      DWI laws are going to change.

 

When the Breathalyzer test was first developed, the American Medical Association pitched in to help out and calculated .15% as the standard BAC level in which impairment can be presumed. This level was first lowered to .10% and then to .08%, ensuring the alcohol level alone became the offense, rather than the issue of actual impairment. Fast forward several decades to 2014, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recently introduced the notion that all states should lower their BAC levels of presumed impairment to .05%. “Zero tolerance” has even been created for underage motorists with the establishment of .01% and .02% laws.

 

What we have observed is a shift from focusing on a motorist’s actual level of impairment to simplifying the process of arrests and convictions via the establishment of artificial BAC levels and the “mere presence” of alcohol. The stress is placed on convictions, not actual levels of impairment.

 

Could future adult DWI cases include zero tolerance laws? Could aiding and abetting drunk driving or “attempted” drunk driving become actual crimes?

 

2.      DWIs will become a Federal issue.

 

The prosecution of DWIs has, up until now, been left to individual states. However, with groups like the NHTSA and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), increasing the amount of political pressure placed upon lawmakers, changes on the horizon can be observed. Increasing the likelihood that .05% could become the new “standard” for impairment, the Federal government has already, in the past, placed considerable pressure on states to change their laws by threatening to withhold Federal funding for highway construction and improvement, as well as law enforcement grants.

 

What have the states done in response?

 

§  Crafted laws establishing .08% as the presumed impairment level

 

§  Established zero tolerance policies for motorists under 21 years of age

 

§  Created automatic driver’s license suspensions

 

§  Standardization of field sobriety tests

 

§  Created Federally approved lists of different Breathalyzer machines

 

 

 

3.      Current diversion programs will be greatly expanded upon.

 

Brought about by the financial pressures associated with prosecutors losing DWI cases in court and paying the overtime salaries of police officers who make DWI arrests, a handful of counties within New Hampshire have begun to experiment with diversion programs for first time DWI offenders. With the majority of these pilot programs, the successful completion of the diversion program will result in a reduction of the charges or a complete dismissal of the charges altogether. MADD has been a driving force in the testing of these programs in Florida, New York, and California (among other states) in the form of hefty “charitable contributions”.

 

4.      The modern Prohibition has arrived.

 

As aforementioned, BAC levels for DWIs have lowered from .15% to .08% nationwide, and there are ongoing efforts to lower the national standard to .05%. Recently, Mothers Against Drunk Driving formally changed their organization’s mission statement to include “the issue of underage drinking”. Their slogan changed from “Don’t Drive Drunk” to the new “Don’t Drink and Drive”. The organization is now focusing on the “problem” of consuming alcohol in any quantity.

 

Furthermore, MADD has launched an initiative to make it mandatory to have ignition interlock devices (IIDs) installed on each automobile for each motorist convicted of a DWI, including first time offenders and certain cases in which alcohol was not a factor at all (DWI – Drugs). Logically, this does not make much sense. At current count, MADD has accomplished many of their goals in nearly 20 states. Could New Hampshire be next? An increasing number of NH lawmakers have begun to show their support for the mandatory installation of IIDs.

 

5.      There will be new methods of collecting evidence in DWI cases.

 

In times gone by, a police officer formed their opinion on a motorist’s level of impairment based upon the driving patterns of their automobile, actual physical signs of intoxication or impairment, and sobriety exercises. From there, we moved on to blood tests and Breathalyzer tests. Now, handheld and portable breath testing devices are being used at the scene of traffic stops to determine if enough probable cause for an arrest exists. Once a suspect has arrived at the police station, they are given another test by a more reliable Breathalyzer device, which is what is then used as evidence in a court of law.

 

Enter saving money and new technology. Expensive Breathalyzer machines will soon be replaced altogether with cheaper, simpler handheld units at an arrest scene. Who knows? Blood samples could soon be obtained by actual warrants signed by judges stationed at DWI roadblocks.

 

Bear in mind that these predictions are made tongue in cheek; however, there is some grain of truth to all jest. New Hampshire’s DWI laws are intricate and complex, and if you are convicted of a DWI offense in our state, then you face some pretty stiff penalties. With the new initiatives and drives that are being introduced by MADD and the NHTSA, these penalties could become even stricter.

 

If you have been arrested on the suspicion of driving while intoxicated, your first step should be to hire a skilled and experienced New Hampshire DWI attorney. To speak with one of our professional DWI lawyers regarding your case, contact us today. Your initial consultation is 100% free, and we can be reached via telephone, email, or through our website.

 

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New Hampshire DWIs & Suspended Sentences

One common phrase that is frequently used when discussing criminal sentences in New Hampshire courts is “suspended sentence”.  In its most basic definition, a suspended sentence occurs when an individual is convicted of a criminal charge and is sentenced to a monetary fine, jail time, or combination of both. The judge decides to “suspend” all or part of the sentence either during the sentencing process or after the defense has filed a petition. Likewise, a wholly or partially suspended sentence may be offered as part of a plea bargain.

New Hampshire’s RSA 651: 20 reads as follows:

“The sentence to imprisonment of any person may be suspended by the sentencing court at the time of imposition of the sentence or at any time thereafter in response to a petition to suspend sentence which is timely brought in accordance with the limitations.”

A suspended sentence can either be unconditional or conditional. An unconditional suspended sentence essentially means that the sentence’s terms, like monetary fines or jail time, are not required to be fulfilled, but in turn, the defendant is still considered to have been formally convicted of a crime. This is beneficial in more ways than one. Although the defendant’s criminal record will still reflect the conviction, he or she will not be subjected to the penalties they were sentenced too.

A conditional suspended sentence is quite similar to probation. It enables the defendant to dodge fulfilling the sentencing requirements that were handed down, but only if they follow certain conditions and terms established by the judge. In many instances, a defendant will be required to avoid engaging in any criminal activity for a full year. If the twelve month period passes and the defendant has refrained from becoming involved in any trouble, then he or she will not be required to complete their formal sentence. However, if they are charged with violating the terms and conditions set forth by the judge, they will be required to serve their sentence in full.

In some jurisdictions, sentencing postponement is practiced. A postponement of sentencing is considered to be a form of a suspended sentence. Upon a defendant’s conviction, the judge does not immediately announce a sentence. This type of sentence is used to encourage defendants to stay out of trouble. In most instances, a New Hampshire court will impose a postponement of sentencing for a first time DWI conviction or for those who do not have a prior criminal history.

How Regularly Does New Hampshire Suspend Criminal Sentences?

Suspended sentencing is more common than you might think. For example, The Sentinel Source, a respected local news outlet, reported on several criminal convictions across New Hampshire in February of 2014 that involved suspended sentencing.

Here are just a few examples:

§  In Westmoreland, a 33 year old, male defendant was convicted in a Cheshire Country Superior Court of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon. The judge sentenced him to spend one year in jail; however, his entire sentence was suspended.

 

§  Another 53 year old defendant, David Buckley, plead guilty to two different charges of violating a protective order. The judge in his case sentenced him to spend 12-24 months in a state prison; however, his entire sentence was also suspended.

 

§  After pleading guilty to selling heroin and cocaine, 39 year old Keith Ridge was sentenced by the judge in his case to one year of jail time, a monetary fine of $350.00, and to serve one year of probation upon his release from jail. His monetary fine and jail time were subsequently suspended.

 

Suspended Sentencing For New Hampshire DWIs

In the state of New Hampshire, the criminal penalties for a DWI conviction often involve jail time. Pursuant to statute RSA 265-A: 18, certain criminal offenses, like second or third offense DWIs or an aggravated DWI, require the defendant to be sentenced to mandatory jail time. However, this statute also includes provisions for how much of the jail sentence can be suspended. For example, an individual who pleads guilty, or is convicted of, a DWI and who has had a prior DWI conviction on their record within the last two calendar years will be required to serve a mandatory jail sentence of “not less than 60 consecutive days in the local correctional facility, of which up to 30 days can be suspended”.

In essence, any defendant who is convicted of a second DWI with two calendar years (24 months) in New Hampshire is only required to serve a minimum of 30 days in jail. Although it is up to the judge’s discretion, the remaining 30 days can be suspended.

Likewise, the minimum mandatory sentence for an aggravated DWI conviction is “no less than 17 consecutive days in the House of Correction, of which 12 days can be suspended”. When one considers that an aggravated DWI charge in New Hampshire is classified as a Class A misdemeanor and a defendant could be sentenced to up to one year in jail for a conviction, 5 days suddenly doesn’t sound so bad.

Hire an Experienced New Hampshire DWI Lawyer Today

On occasion, a prosecutor will offer a defendant a wholly or partially suspended sentence as part of a plea bargain in order to secure a conviction; however, before you agree to any arrangements with a prosecuting attorney, you are strongly encouraged to speak with a an experienced and skilled DWI lawyer. A DWI conviction in New Hampshire can bring about serious consequences, so don’t take any unnecessary gambles with your future. An experienced attorney will be familiar with the intricacies of NH DWI law and may be able to secure a more favorable outcome for your case.

To learn more about suspended sentences for DWIs in New Hampshire or to speak with one of our NH DWI lawyers about acquiring legal representation, please contact our law offices today. Your initial consultation is free, and our experienced DWI attorneys will be happy to answer any and all of your questions. We can be reached via phone, email, or through our website.

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New Hampshire DWI Laws – Get the Basic Facts Now

New Hampshire’s DWI laws are complex and frequently evolving; however, there are some basic facts that you should know about our state’s drunk driving laws right now. If you have been arrested and charged with a DWI in our state, then the most important info you should immediately be aware of is that you could lose multiple, important legal advantages in as little as 10 days after the date of your initial arrest. In New Hampshire, a DWI and a DUI are considered the same thing. There are no lesser offenses or intoxicated motorist penalties, like “driving while ability impaired”, like those of Colorado, New York, and other states.

In the state of New Hampshire, there are four different DWI charges that can be brought against a defendant, and each one has its own distinct set of punishment and penalties. These charges are 1) driving while intoxicated (DWI), 2) aggravated DWI, 3) felony aggravated DWI, and 4) subsequent offense DWI, which could be a second, third, or fourth offense. Under New Hampshire’s current laws, a fourth offense DWI is automatically classified as a felony charge. A DWI wherein the motorist causes an accident that result in serious bodily injury or death is also classified as a felony – even if the perpetrator is the only party who was injured in the collision.

In our state, almost all prosecutions for DWI follow two parallel tracks: 1) a legal case in a superior or district court wherein the motorist is formally charged with a crime and 2) an administrative license suspension hearing (ALS) for refusing to submit to a chemical alcohol test or for offering one that is higher than the legal limit. When you engage the services of a New Hampshire DWI attorney, he or she will handle both proceedings.

Under New Hampshire’s laws, all DWI related charges are classified legally as crimes, rather than as traffic offenses. A first offense DWI charge is classified as a Class B misdemeanor. Typically, this category of crime does not carry an accompanying jail sentence, but it is a possibility. All other DWIs charges, felonies, subsequent, and aggravated, are accompanied by mandatory jail sentences and significantly longer periods of license revocation.

§  For persons who are 21 years of age or older, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08%. For motorists under the age of 21, the legal BAC limit is .02%. For those who take a Breathalyzer test that is right at the legal limit of .02% or .08%, it may be possible to avoid having their driver’s license suspended unless they are convicted of a DWI.

 

§  New Hampshire’s DWI laws state that if a person holds a commercial driver’s license (CDL), but have not been charged with operating a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is identical to the legal limit that would be applied to a standard DWI.

 

§  Motorists who are charged with operating a commercial vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol face considerably harsher criminal penalties and are subjected to a .04% BAC limit. Even at lower BAC levels, a commercial driver could face other sanctions and penalties, because it is considered unlawful to operate a commercial vehicle with any detectable amount of alcohol in one’s system.

 

If you have a driver’s license that was issued in another state besides New Hampshire, then you should be aware that your license can be suspended in your home state, as well as in New Hampshire.

Once you have been charged under NH DWI laws, the first court appearance you are required to attend is referred to as an arraignment. An arraignment date can be located on your bail receipt, complaint, or your court summons. If you plan on engaging the services of a New Hampshire DWI lawyer to assist you, arrangements should be made well in advance of your arraignment. A number of legal advantages and rights can be lost if you choose to wait. During the arraignment, the criminal complaints against you will be read, and you will be requested to enter a plea. Even if your BAC levels were above the legal limit, you have the absolute right to enter a plea of not guilty.

Choosing to plead not guilty simply means that, at trial, the prosecution is required to prove that you are guilty. Because you have entered a plea of not guilty, a trial date will be scheduled. During the trial, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each element of the criminal offense with which you have been charged. If they are unable to do so, then you will be deemed not guilty, and you will not face any of the penalties associated with a DWI conviction.

If you would prefer to contest the charges leveled against you, then, under New Hampshire state law, you should not plead nolo contendere or guilty.

Individuals who are charged with a first offense DWI have the legal right to have a trial held before a judge, but they are not entitled to a jury trial. For second offense DWIs, aggravated DWIs, or other subsequent offenses, you possess the legal right to have a trial by jury, but you may be required to submit to a trial conducted before a District Court judge first, and if convicted, then file an appeal before the Superior Court.

For a first offense DWI conviction, the mandatory penalties include:

§  A minimum monetary fine of $500.00 with a maximum of $1,200.00, in addition to a 24% penalty assessment

§  A mandatory license suspension period of 9 months, which under certain circumstances, can be reduced to as little as 90 days, and a maximum suspension period of two years

Motorists who are under the age of 21 years at the time of their DWI arrest and conviction face much stiffer penalties under New Hampshire state law. For second offense DWI and aggravated DWI convictions, a defendant faces a mandatory jail sentence and a significantly longer period of mandatory license suspension.

For any DWI related conviction, you will be required to successfully complete state approved alcohol or drug education program prior to having your driver’s license reinstated. The program must be a minimum of twenty hours in length. If you’re convicted of a second offense DWI or subsequent offense conviction will mandate that you complete a 7 day residential treatment program. Multiple offenders must complete a 28 day treatment program as a condition of their punishment.

In addition to the mandated completion of treatment programs, there are a number of other collateral consequences a person must contend with if convicted of a DWI. This list of collateral consequences includes:

§  Special SR-22 insurance requirements

§  Higher insurance rates

§  Probationary driver’s licenses

§  Barred entry into Canada

§  An inability to rent cars

§  Increased penalties for future motor vehicle violations

Apart and separate from a court case, if you refused to perform physical tests after being arrested or refused to undergo a chemical test when a police officer requested it, then you shall receive a suspension notice from the NH Department of Safety – Motor Vehicle Division. This period of revocation shall be no less than 180 days and can last as long as two years. If you do refuse to submit to a requested chemical test, then New Hampshire’s ALS law will make the suspension of your driver’s license consecutive with any other revocations.

You do have a legal right to request a hearing on the revocation order. At such a hearing, the arresting police officer and the person who administered the chemical test must show up to submit to cross examination by your DWI attorney. However, such a hearing must be requested in writing within 30 days of your license suspension. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Despite what you might think, many individuals are found to be not guilty of DWIs in the state of New Hampshire. A greater number of people benefit from plea bargaining, which can result in lesser charges and penalties. Even if your particular DWI case is a difficult one, it will be to your great benefit to employ the services of an experienced and skilled DWI lawyer. For a free consultation about your case, please contact our law firm today.

 

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New Hampshire, Hit and Run Accidents, DWIs, & Why You Need a Lawyer

Without a doubt, a DWI accident is quite serious, and this troubling scenario can be made even worse when a motorist is accused of failing to stop and fleeing the scene of the accident. In a recent article, USA Today reported that, within the United States, approximately 11% of all traffic related accidents involved hit and run drivers. Within a legal context, a hit and run accident is defined as a scenario in which a motorist is involved in an accident or collision and leaves the accident’s scene before police officers have the opportunity to respond.

Within the state of New Hampshire, each motorist has a legal duty to report any vehicular accident or crash that result in personal injury or property damage. Failing to do so will result in criminal charges of failure to report, in addition to potential accusations of criminal offenses, like driving while intoxicated. When a motorist causes a collision and promptly leaves the scene of the accident, police officers are routinely suspicious of their motives for doing so. Often times, once the motorist has been apprehended, police officers will accuse them of a DWI (driving while intoxicated) as the motivating factor in why they decided to leave the scene.

In an article published in November of 2013, USA Today highlighted the fact that, throughout the United States, hit and run accidents are on the rise. In the article, it was reported that, between 2009 and 2011 alone, hit and run collisions within the U.S. have increased by slightly over 13%. The article goes on to interview multiple experts as to why a motorist might be motivated to leave the scene of an accident. Sara Solnick, the current Chairwoman of the University of Vermont’s Department of Economics, has extensively studied the phenomenon of hit and run accidents and made the following statement to USA Today:

"Drivers are more likely to run if they feel there is a reason to do so. They're more likely to have high blood-alcohol content, or they're driving without a license, or they're very young drivers."

It is never a smart idea to the leave the scene of an automobile accident – regardless of whether or not you have been drinking. Frequently, such accidents are reported by one or more witnesses, and the offending motorist is quickly apprehended. Once an arrest has been made, he or she is going to face a myriad of criminal charges, particularly if alcohol or drugs were involved.

New Hampshire’s Criminal Penalties For Hit and Run Accidents Involving DWIs

There are multiple criminal charges that can arise from a scenario involving a hit and run. First and foremost, state statute RSA 264:25 reads that a motorist who has knowledge of, or whom should have reasonably known, that they were involved in a collision that resulted in property damage, personal injury to another individual, or death, should immediately halt their automobile at the scene of the accident and provide any other parties involved, including the damaged property’s owner, with this information:

§  Their full name and an up to date address

§  The motorist’s driver’s license number

§  Their automobile’s registration number

§  The address and name of each of the vehicle’s occupants

If no one is available to provide this information to, such as if the property owner cannot be found, then the info should be provided to the law enforcement official who responds to the scene of the accident. If a police officer is unavailable for some reason, then the information should be reported to the nearest police precinct. Any individual who fails to follow these legal requirements could potentially be charged with a Class B felony criminal charge if the accident resulted in personal injury or death to another individual. Within the state of New Hampshire, the criminal penalties for a Class B felony conviction include:

§  Monetary fines of up to $2,000.00

§  A potential prison sentence of 3.5 to 7 years

Moreover, it is wholly possible that a motorist can be charged with driving while intoxicated. This is actually quite common in hit and run scenarios. Even for a first time offender, a DWI conviction can result in monetary fines, loss of driver’s license, and other penalties.

If the accident resulted in serious bodily harm to another person, then the criminal charges will be altered to include a more serious charge of aggravated DWI. Under our state’s current laws, serious bodily injury is defined as “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”. For a person convicted of an aggravated DWI, the penalties and sanctions they face include:

§  Felony Class B criminal charges

§  A minimum monetary fine of $1,000.00

§  A mandatory jail sentence of at least 35 days – 14 of which cannot legally be suspended

§  A comprehensive substance abuse disorder evaluation, counseling, and treatment

§  Revocation of driving privileges for a period ranging from 1.5 to 2 years

§  Random drug and alcohol testing

The Importance of Hiring a New Hampshire DWI Attorney

If you have been accused of driving while intoxicated and arrested for a hit and run accident, your immediate first step should be to contact a skilled and experienced NH DWI lawyer. Per the USA Today report, other forms of fatal vehicular accidents are decreasing; however, hit and run accidents are on the rise, which is causing states to significantly crack down on any motorist accused of leaving the scene of an accident. Such an offense can potentially result in numerous felony charges. In addition to the aforementioned sentences, a conviction for a hit and run offense will be included on any background check that is conducted by an educational institution or potential employer. Furthermore, your auto insurance rates will rise astronomically.

For a free consultation with one of our firm’s skilled and experienced DWI attorneys, please contact us today via email, telephone, or through our website.

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Did You Know That Throwing a Cigarette Butt Out of Your Window Can Allow Police to Perform a DWI Stop?

In a driving while intoxicated case (DWI), one of the key elements is the initial DWI stop. In order for an arrest to take place, the motorist must first be stopped by law enforcement officials. In the state of New Hampshire, there are two different manners in which a motorist can be stopped by police officers. The first manner involves random sobriety checkpoints. This scenario involves random roadblocks that are established by officers with the intention of stopping motorists passing through to check for proper license and registration, correct use of seatbelts, and any potential signs of alcohol intoxication.

The second way in which officers can stop an automobile involves probable cause. In our state, a police officer can legally pull over an automobile only if they possess probable cause that a crime has been committed or is in the process of occurring. In most instances, this happens when a law enforcement agent observes a car breaking traffic laws, like driving with a headlight out or failing to stop at an intersection.

In many instances, a police officer can opt to stop an automobile if they observe that the motorist is giving off signs that he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Such visual cues can include observing the motorist weaving in and out of lanes, failing to properly signal a turn, or traveling at reduced speeds. Frequently, a police officer who observes such signs will pull the passenger vehicle over in order to gauge the driver’s level of sobriety. A critical element of NH DWI law is that police officers must have probable cause in order to stop motorists. For example, a state trooper cannot settle themselves outside of a bar on a weekend night and stop all patrons leaving the parking lot unless they personally observe the motorist making some type of error.

In order to stop as many intoxicated motorists as potentially possible, police officers will frequently resort to using the slightest errors a driver makes in order to stop them. For example, a recent case involving the Pennsylvania Supreme Court resulted in a ruling that a motorist who throws a cigarette butt out of their window while driving can provide adequate legal grounds for police officers to conduct a traffic stop.

In the summer of 2011, James Amatucci, a 61 year old motorist, was traveling down a street in Pennsylvania when he threw his cigarette butt of his car window. An officer who witnessed the act then decided to pull Mr. Amatucci over. The officer used the act of throwing the butt out of the window as probable cause for the traffic stop – stating that the defendant had violated a state law that barred citizens from littering.

Over the course of the stop’s duration, the police officer discovered that Mr. Amatucci had a BAC level that was well over the legal limit, in addition to a small bag of crack cocaine that was discovered inside his vehicle. Moreover, the suspect was operating on a driver’s license that had been suspended by the Pennsylvania DMV for a prior DWI conviction. While the suspect certainly presented a potential threat to other motorists on the roadway and was definitely in violation of multiple laws, the legal case centered around the legality of the traffic stop. Within the United States, criminal charges that arise from an officer conducted traffic stop without the presence of probable cause will be dismissed, regardless of the crime’s severity.

Ultimately, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a single cigarette butt is substantial enough to be classified as “scattering rubbish”. Consequently, the traffic stop was ruled legally valid. However, one single judge, Christine Donahue, thought that the ruling was troubling in more ways than one. She presented the following arguments in her dissenting opinion:

The majority's ruling "provides law enforcement with (grounds for) pretextual motor vehicle stops" if police officers can say a driver tossed something, be it a cigarette or a gum wrapper, out the window.” Donohue argued.

"It is unlikely that the Legislature intended such an insignificant action, done by so many on a frequent basis, to open the door for police to stop a vehicle."

If police officers are legally allowed to stop motorists for, as the Judge wrote, “insignificant actions”, then motorists could reasonably expect to be stopped unexpectedly and more frequently for minor infractions. Although littering itself is classified as a crime, an act as minor as throwing a cigarette butt out of the window should not be classified as evidence that a motorist is, in some manner, impaired or currently committing a more serious crime. Utilizing this case as precedent could be dangerous. Police officers could potentially argue that such a case’s ruling imbues them with the authority to stop many motorists that are just driving home late at night during the weekend (which is when the majority of DWIs occur).

However, even with this ruling, it does not mean that all traffic stops police perform are legal. If you have been arrested for, and charged with, a DWI in the state of New Hampshire and have legal questions as to whether or not the arresting officer possessed probable cause to stop your vehicle, contact one of our skilled and experienced NH DWI attorneys today. If not probable cause existed, our DWI lawyers can have all charges against you dismissed. Your initial consultation is free, so give us a call today.

 

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Defending Your DWI: An Odor of Alcohol and Red Glassy Eyes Means You’re Drunk, Right?

Officers’ observations of “red, glassy eyes” and the “odor of alcohol” are two phrases that are parroted in almost each DWI case. Our New Hampshire criminal defense lawyers routinely challenge these observations by demonstrating that a plethora of environmental factors can influence the appearance of these “symptoms”.

Did you know that the notion of “red, glassy eyes” as a sign of alcoholic impairment was debunked by the United States Department of Transportation itself back in 1997? In their report, the U.S. DOT stated:

“…Bloodshot eyes, while associated with alcohol consumption, also are a trait of many shift workers and people who must work more than one job, as well as those afflicted by allergies.” Jack Stuster, U.S. Department of Transportation, NHTSA Final Report, The Detection of DWI at BAC’s below .10 (1997)

Take into consideration the following snippet of a cross-examination:

Lawyer: Is it not true Officer X that being fatigued can cause the appearance of red eyes? 
 
Officer X: Yes.
 
Lawyer: You do not know how long my client was awake before the DWI stop, correct? 
 
Officer X: Yes, that is correct. 
 
Lawyer: Would you agree that allergies can create redness of the eyes?
 
Officer X: Yes.
 
Lawyer: Do you know if my client suffers from allergies Officer? 
 
Officer X: I do not. 
 
Lawyer: Did you contact my client’s physician to follow up on this issue?
 
Officer X: I did not. 
 
Lawyer:  Can cigarette smoke cause the eyes to appear red in color?
 
Officer X: Yes.
 
Lawyer: Did you inquire of my client how many cigarettes he had smoked over the duration of the night? 
 
Officer X: I did not. 

Alcohol is not the only factor that can cause the appearance of watery, red, or bloodshot eyes. Other potential causes include:

§  An emotional state

§  Cigarette smoke

§  Infections

§  Eye strain

§  Disease

§  Contact lenses

§  Dry air

§  Fatigue

§  Prescription medications

§  Diabetes

A cross-examination on the issue of red, glassy eyes could potentially go on indefinitely. When one considers the numerous alternative reasons for the appearance of red, glassy eyes, it hardly seems as though this observation can serve as compelling evidence of intoxication.

Odor of Alcohol

Police Officer’s Testimony: “I approached the vehicle from the driver’s side and instantly detected a strong alcoholic odor emanating from the driver.”

There are certain things that are guaranteed in life, like taxes and death. Another guarantee is that almost each DWI police report will feature a condemning claim by the arresting police officer that he or she detected “the odor of an alcoholic beverage” either coming directly from the motorist themselves or from the interior cabin of the vehicle. Yes, the fact that your DWI police report will repeatedly echo the phrase “odor of alcohol” is almost an absolute certainty.

At first glance, a claim to smell the odor of alcohol might seem like damning evidence of guilt and intoxication. One could easily erroneously conclude that if a motorist smells like a brewery, he or she is intoxicated. However, in reality, the phrase is absolute junk. It reveals nothing about a motorist’s level of sobriety or how fit they were to operate an automobile.

Ethyl alcohol features no smell. What the police officer is detecting is an aroma – the flavoring used to provide a beverage with its taste. In general, the beverages that have the strongest aroma, such as wine and beer, are also the ones that contain the least amount of actual alcohol. There are certain quite strong alcoholic beverages, such as vodka and scotch, which actually produce a faint, light smell.

What If I Have Been Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Non-alcoholic beer is often referred to as “near beer”. Even after drinking a near beer, the chances are that you are still going to smell like a brewery. However, regardless of the strong odor that is wafting from your person, it does not change the fact that you have absolutely no alcohol in your system or bloodstream.

Standing alone, the odor of alcohol does not create enough probable cause for a police officer to make a DWI arrest. Remember that New Hampshire’s state laws make impaired driving illegal, not driving a motor vehicle after having had a single drink, and it is absolutely imperative for a police officer to have sufficient probable cause before an arrest for any crime.

“The mere odor of alcohol about a driver’s person….maybe indicia of alcohol ingestion, but it is no more a probable indication of intoxication than eating a meal is of gluttony.”  Saucier v. State, 869 P. 2d 483 (1994)

Our New Hampshire criminal defense lawyers ensure that both the judge and the jury understand that no correlation exists between the amount of alcohol a client has consumed and the mere presence of an alcoholic odor. An odor does not inform a judge or jury of what type of alcohol was consumed (i.e. mixed drinks, wine, or beer), how much alcohol was drunk, at what time the alcoholic drinks were consumed, over what duration they were consumed, or in what quantity the alcohol was consumed.

Do I Have to Answer a Police Officer’s Questions?

It is not uncommon for arresting officers to ask a suspect what they have had to drink or if they have been drinking at all. Remember that you are not legally obligated to answer this question. Politely inform the police officer that you are refusing his invitation to answer questions with a DWI attorney present. The officer is legally required to respect your decision. It really is that simple.

When it comes to New Hampshire DWI cases, time is a critical factor. Therefore, if you have been accused of or arrested for, a DWI crime in New Hampshire, you need to contact an experienced and skilled DWI attorney as quickly as possible. This is where our lawyers can step in to offer their assistance. We can be reached by telephone, email, or through our website.

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Are IIDs Really Effective at Preventing DWIs?

When a motorist is convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, one specific penalty that must be faced is the required use of an ignition interlock device. Such devices are designed with the intention of preventing offenders from repeating their crime. An ignition interlock device is also commonly referred to as an IID or breath alcohol ignition interlock device. These devices are installed in the automobiles of motorists convicted of DWIs, and its design requires the motorist to breathe into a mouthpiece so that the person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels can be read and monitored. If the IID detects the presence of alcohol over a pre-established limit, then it will prevent the automobile from being started. Since the use of IIDs became widespread more than 20 years ago, these devices have become one of the most effective methods of preventing intoxicated driving.

Groups that advocate against drunk driving, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, believe that any motorist within the United States, who is convicted of a DWI, should have an IID installed in their automobile as a requirement of having their driver’s license and driving privileges reinstated. Currently, each state in the country maintains its own laws regarding the use of IIDs, and these laws range from required use for offenders with high BAC levels only to mandatory use for all DWI offenders. Most commonly, mandatory use is required for repeat DWI offenders only.

While there is a considerable amount of emphasis placed upon why IIDs should be used, there does not currently exist much reliable data explaining if ignition interlock devices are truly effective at preventing motorists with BAC levels over the legal limit from operating their vehicles. In 2014, the NHTSA released a report describing IIDs as needing four distinct elements in order to make them truly effective:

§  The device must have a sensor for breath alcohol that enables the automobile to start only when an acceptable breath sample has been offered.

§  A secure outer casing that prevents the unit from being tampered with.

§  An electronic system that that accurately records the samples collected in order to monitor how many times and when an offender attempts to operate their vehicle while intoxicated.

§  A pretesting system that requires the motorist to provide further samples every 10-15 minutes after the automobile’s engine has been started.

Within the state of New Hampshire, IID systems are designed so that any person with a blood alcohol content of .02% or higher cannot engage or operate a motor vehicle. Current research indicates that both repeat and first time offense motorists who utilize an ignition interlock device maintain a much lower recidivism rate than DWI offenders who do not use them at all. However, a problem arises in the fact that these devices do relatively little to alter an offender’s actual driving habits. As the NHTSA has stated in their report:

“Once ignition interlocks are removed from a vehicle, however, recidivism rates of ignition interlock users increase and resemble the rates for offenders for whom interlocks were not required.”

In and of itself, this suggests that a motorist who uses an ignition interlock device will refrain from starting and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated only because the IID does not allow them to. After the device has been removed, their oft dangerous driving habits will continue without change. Consequently, the use of IID devices only has a temporary effective in reducing offenders’ recidivism rates. Moreover, while IID systems are designed to record how frequently a motorist fails the alcohol breath test within the device, the majority of states do not issue an imposed penalty, which means that a motorist who attempts repeatedly to drive while intoxicated with an IID installed, is still legally allowed to have the device removed from their automobile once their sentence has been completed.

An ignition interlock device offers an ideal method of enabling DWI offenders to continue to drive an automobile while ensuring that their earlier offenses will not be repeated; however, overall, these devices do not work to alter intoxicated motorists’ driving habits. Although anti-drinking and driving advocacy groups like MADD want each state to establish the mandatory use of IIDs, there exists no mention of how long a DWI offender should be required to use the application. Within New Hampshire, where it is required for a repeat DWI offender to have an IID installed for a minimum of two years, this length of time might be sufficient enough to get the motorist out of the habit of driving while intoxicated; however, no studies have been conducted to explore the existing relationship between IIDs and recidivism rates once the devices have been removed.

While ignition interlock devices may not possess the desired long term effects that are required to prevent DWI instances entirely, they still offer an ideal option for convicted offenders. In most states, an IID can be installed in one’s automobile in lieu of having to serve a longer length of driver’s license suspension. If you would like to learn more about IIDs and how they are used in the state of New Hampshire, for more information on the penalties associated with a DWI conviction, or if you have been arrested for a DWI, please contact our law offices.

With decades of combined experience, our New Hampshire DWI attorneys are familiar with all aspects of NH DWI law. We can provide answers to your questions, thoroughly scrutinize your case, and recommend an appropriate course of action. We can be reached through our website, via email, or by telephone, and your initial consultation is 100% free.

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9 Manners In Which a DWI Can Negatively Affect Your Career

If you are like many other New Hampshire residents, you may have seen the recent news story about a police officer who was fired for driving while intoxicated. Should you be arrested for a DWI, the consequences you face extend far beyond just jail time. What most people do not realize is that a DWI can have a devastating effect upon their career.

Here are 9 different ways in which a DWI can damage or destroy your career:

1.      Suspended Driver’s License. If your driver’s license is suspended and you cannot obtain a hardship license (which are currently unavailable in the state of New Hampshire) to transport yourself to and from work, then you are left with the options of using public transportation, taking a taxi, hiring a private driver, or relying upon friends and family to transport you where you need to go. However, not all of these options are available to everyone, and if you miss too much work or are frequently tardy, then you could lose your job. Furthermore, if your place of employment requires you to drive, then you are out of luck.

 

2.      Mandatory Firings. A considerable percentage of employers state in employment contracts and handbooks that being convicted of a crime is grounds to be fired from your place of employment. If your employer has enacted this specific policy, then you could lose your job if you are convicted of a DWI. Most employers require their employees to notify them immediately if they are arrested for a crime.

 

3.      Loss of Insurance Coverage. If you career requires you to drive frequently, and even if you do manage to retain your driver’s license, your insurance provider may not offer coverage for individuals who have DWIs on their records. If you are covered by an insurance firm for operating heavy equipment or driving an automobile, your employer could potentially lose their coverage if they continue to employ you. In this scenario, your employer will have no other option but to fire you. Even if you do retain your employment and your insurance coverage, insurance premiums are going to become considerably more expensive with a DWI on your record. Your employer may decide that continuing to employ you is not worth the additional expense.

 

4.      Diversion Programs. If you are fortunate enough to qualify for a diversion program that enables you to avoid spending time in jail, you will still be subjected to mandatory notification of your employer and could even require visits to your place of employment. Depending upon the specific jurisdiction you’re located in, a guilty plea may be required in order for you to enter a diversion program. If your employer discovers your conviction, you will more than likely lose your job.

 

5.      Professional Licensures. There are many different careers, such as plumbers, doctors, nurses, and lawyers, which require any arrest to be immediately disclosed to the appropriate licensing agency. Depending upon the specific agency and state, it could affect your professional license. If you lose your license, you lose your job.

 

6.      Missing Work. There is a very real possibility that you will be required to miss a fair amount of work for court appearances and possibly mandatory alcohol treatment. There could also be mandatory jail time. In addition to possibly being penalized for excessive absenteeism, there is also the embarrassment of explaining your absences to others that you must contend with.

 

7.      Job Applications. Most employers are going to inquire about arrests and convictions when you are applying to a new place of employment. Having a DWI on your record could significantly affect your chances of being hired. In addition to appearing on your driver’s license record, a DWI conviction is also going to appear on public records.

 

8.      Education. Many universities and colleges inquire if applicants have any criminal convictions on their record. In a similar fashion, applications for financial aid could be affected by a DWI conviction. In order to avoid risking losing out altogether, you may be required to prove that you have completed a treatment program.

 

9.      Commercial Drivers’ Licenses. For commercial drivers, a DWI conviction will remain on their record for approximately 55 years, and it is not uncommon for DWI convictions to spell the end of a commercial driver’s career.

 

It is simple to see that there is a lot at risk when it comes to a DWI conviction. If you were to be fired from your place of employment, particularly in today’s struggling economy, it can negatively impact your ability to support yourself and your family. Of course, the best advice you can follow is not to drink and drive at all. For example, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration maintain a list on their website of sober ride services available in each of the 50 states, including New Hampshire. However, we understand that people do make mistakes.

Should you be arrested for a DWI in New Hampshire, your first step should be to immediately contact an experienced and skilled New Hampshire DWI lawyer. If your DWI attorney cannot avoid a conviction altogether in your case, then, at a very minimum, he or she can work to minimize the impact that a conviction has upon your career. This is where our experienced NH DWI lawyers can step in to offer their assistance.

With decades of combined experienced among us, we are well-versed in each aspect of New Hampshire DWI law and will work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome in your case and to ensure that your legal rights are protected. Your initial consultation is free, so please contact us today. You’ve worked hard to establish yourself in your career, so protect it with nothing less than the best in legal representation.

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DWI Offenders Will Be Allowed Limited Driving Privileges

In a controversial decision, the New Hampshire Senate, on April 24th, bestowed their preliminary approval upon a bill that would enable first time, DWI offenders to legally drive to and from medical appointments, school, and their place of employment.

Named House Bill 496, the bill establishes a restricted driver’s license for driving while intoxicated, first time offenders after their driving privileges have been revoked for 60 days or longer. House Bill 496, which was sponsored by Democratic House Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff of Concord, bears many similarities to bills that have been passed in more than 20 other states, including Maine.

Under the provisions of this bill, first time offenders would be legally required to pay an application fee of $50.00 and petition an approved judge before they would be given consideration for a limited driver’s license. Depending upon the particular circumstances of each case, an offender may or may not be required to have their motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device, which the offender must pay for, before being allowed to legally drive. The limited driver’s license would specifically allow for an offender to drive to and from their current place of employment, to seek employment, to attend alcohol or substance abuse treatment, to attend school, receive medical treatment, or to seek medical treatment for family members in emergency situations.

The goal of House Bill 496 is to enable first time offenders to maintain their current employment since not all areas of New Hampshire have adequate access to public transportation, while still abiding by the legal restrictions of the law. Before the bill is enacted into law, it will be subject to a final review by the state’s Senate Finance Committee.

Democratic Senator Donna Soucy from Manchester has stated that the ignition interlock device an offender must have is different from standard models in that it has been equipped with enhanced technology that will provide law enforcement officials with real time data to alert agencies if the offending motorist has another person blow into the device for them or when the motorist is traveling within a specific area that has not been approved that has not been approved by the court system.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has lent their support to the bill, and its passage ad implementation has become a priority of theirs.

In a recently released statement, MADD National President Jan Withers stated:

“Drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable, and reducing the number of drunk driving fatalities in New Hampshire begins with strengthening the state’s drunk driving laws. MADD calls on lawmakers to pass our number-one legislative priority: ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers.”

The bill passed the senate with amendment and will take effect January 2016, so unfortunately this bill will probably not help anyone who is currently under suspension for DWI.

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DWI Defense Strategies – Problems With the Intoxilyzer 5000

As each of our clients knows, a DWI conviction is a life altering event. Just a few of the worries that our clients face include loss of licensure, employment, and jail time. It is these very concerns that motivate our DWI attorneys to seek new defenses and solutions to DWI prosecution and improve our legal techniques. Bear in mind that being arrested for a DWI does not necessarily equate a conviction. Even test results that are over New Hampshire’s legal limit can be challenged.

As one of New Hampshire’s premiere DWI defense firms, our primary task is to become familiar with each detail of your unique case and to apply our skills and knowledge to the goal of having the DWI dismissed. In any criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecutor, and in a court of law, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. Our work is treated with the utmost seriousness, and we strive to make it difficult for prosecutors to make their case.

One of the most common DWI defense strategies our NH DWI attorneys employ is attacking the credibility of Breathalyzer test results. There are two primary problems with the Intoxilyzer 5000. First and foremost, machine based tests are not the same as blood tests, and secondly, Intoxilyzer 5000 tests measure the amount of alcohol within an air sample, but the machine cannot determine where the actual sample came from.

Source Code and Partition Errors

The good news is that shows like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and CSI have enabled the general public to get over their general fear of technology and science. While this certainly has its benefits, at the same time, it often makes jurors skeptical of the accuracy of the Intoxilyzer 5000, particularly when they learn it was originally designed and built more than two decades ago. In general, jurors become more enlightened to the possibility that this Breathalyzer machine is nothing magical.

Consider the fact that the Intoxilyzer 5000 calculates a person’s supposed blood alcohol content from a breath sample alone. Now consider how an actual blood test calculates the true percentage of alcohol in your bloodstream. Consequently, when blood alcohol is content is derived from a sample of one’s breath, it becomes a requirement that a mathematical ratio be applied to the breath sample in order to determine blood alcohol content. With the Intoxilyzer 5000, the same exact ratio is applied to each person; however, the primary problem with this approach arises in that no two individuals are exactly alike.

The manufacturer of the Intoxilyzer 5000 has created a mythological “average” individual and applied this ratio to everyone. There is no place on this Breathalyzer machine to input a person’s lung capacity, sex, body fat percentage, age, weight, or other relevant factors. The majority of experts agree that the Intoxilyzer has an error margin that ranges between 20%-70%. Hypothetically, if the machine registered a motorist’s blood alcohol content at .10%, their actual BAC levels could be as low as .03% or as high as .17%, which is more than over the legal limit.

The problem is further compounded by the fact that the Intoxilyzer 5000’s manufacturers have never released the source codes it uses. Technically, no one actually knows the equations this machine is utilizing. This is comparable to a scientist who claims to have achieved a particular result but will not divulge how it was accomplished. That is not true science.

Residual Mouth Alcohol, Heartburn, and Slope Detectors

With the Intoxilyzer, sample contamination is a significant problem. The air that a breath sample utilizes is supposed to bed derived entirely from a person’s lungs; however, the sample could also contain air from the room he or she is in or even their stomach. Moreover, the sample could be “infected” with actual raw alcohol from the suspect’s stomach or mouth. Speaking in a practical manner, when heartburn occurs, it means a person’s esophagus is not closing properly. Consequently, stomach matter (such as alcohol for those who have consumed a drink and acid) and air can infect the breath sample. The Intoxilyzer 5000 was not to take into account consistent stomach air. “Mouth alcohol”, or the tiny amounts of air that accompany a hiccup or belch, can also contaminate a sample.

There are two main mechanisms that have been created to combat these problems. First and foremost, the Intoxilyzer is supposed to feature a “slope detector”. In theory, this feature can detect when a breath sample has been infected; however, it is a well-known fact that it rarely works correctly. In most instances, a slow, steady flow of air will fool the machine.

The second mechanism is a required observation period. The operating manual for the Intoxilyzer 5000 claims that a police officer should observe a potential suspect for a minimum of 20 minutes before conducting an Intoxilyzer breath test. This is a protocol that police officers rarely follow. Even if the 20 minute observation period was followed correctly, it would not work properly because heartburn or a small belch cannot be observed.

Contact Our Law Offices Today

These are just a few of the problems we frequently encounter with the Intoxilyzer 5000. Unfortunately, this machine has become the de facto machine of choice for New Hampshire law enforcement officials. The aforementioned problems are further compounded by the fact that police officers are rarely properly trained and accredited on how to use this machine. One of our primary missions is to educate jurors on the various faults of this machine.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law offices today. Our experienced New Hampshire DWI lawyers will provide an honest assessment of your case, and all details discussed during your meeting will be kept 100% confidential. The meeting is free. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, so contact us today.

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An Illegal Traffic Stop Could Be a Viable Defense In Your NH DWI Trial

In order for a police officer to legally detain a motorist or require him or her to pull over while they are driving, the officer must possess “reasonable grounds” to believe that a traffic offense has been committed. After the initial traffic stop has been made, the investigation can be expanded to look for evidence of a DWI.

A police officer must be willing to testify, and to offer evidence, that reasonable grounds was created by specific observations, such as seeing a motorist weave in and out of traffic, driving below or above the specified speed limit, or demonstrating other behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the motorist was driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The most critical aspect that New Hampshire motorists must learn to understand is when a police officer is actually “seizing” them.

Whether it involves a police officer stopping by a suspect’s hospital room to question them and when the medical staff are the ones who have confined the suspect and not police or if a police officer stops to check on a motorist’s legally parked automobile that is not being driven, if the police officer does not actively place the suspect under arrest or otherwise make it nigh unto impossible for the motorist to end the questioning or leave, the police officer has not seized anything against the motorist, and anything the suspect says or does can be used as valid evidence against them in a court of law.

If a police officer does not compel a motorist to step out of their automobile or place them under arrest and read them their Miranda rights, then the motorist retains every legal right to halt the conversation, discontinue contact, or leave the scene of the traffic stop.

Defining Pretextual Traffic Stops

Pretextual stops occur when a police officer observes a motorist committing a traffic violation or other offense and uses these actions as a pretext to pull the motorist over to determine if they are in violation of New Hampshire’s DWI laws. Such stops have been deemed legally valid by the Federal constitution and the New Hampshire state constitution, so long as the police officer possessed a valid reason for pulling the motorist over.

Most often, if an experienced NH DWI attorney can prove that the actual traffic stop itself was illegal, then he or she will do so during a pre-trial motion. One method in which an experienced lawyer can question the legality of a pretextual stop is to prove that the possibility of racial profiling was a determining factor in the stop.

Minor Violations Occur When a Person Is Sober

A New Hampshire drunk driving attorney can argue that a traffic stop was not reasonable if the police officer claims that a motorist was weaving in and out of their lane, particularly if it was done in a manner that is consistent with the actions of a sober individual. New Hampshire’s state statutes regarding lane control recognize that motorists are not always capable of remaining perfectly within their own lanes. Consequently, automobiles should be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane.”

An increasing number of states have heard legal cases in which a motorist drifted slightly, either across a yellow line or across fog lines, and these courts routine deemed that such actions do not constitute reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop.

Anonymous Tips Can Lead to a DWI Arrest

A police officer must possess reasonable suspicion in order to pull a vehicle over, but such suspicion can arise in the form of an anonymous tip from another NH citizen who observed suspicious behaviors. In these instances, the police officer does not have to witness the suspicious behaviors in person. Instead, they can elect to pull a motorist over on the basis of the anonymous report. The only requirements of the anonymous report is that it must possess all of the elements of reasonable suspicion.

A skilled NH drunk driving attorney will fight to suppress such evidence, but what must be understood is that New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has established specific guidelines for anonymous tippers who must be capable of identifying the vehicle’s model, make, plate number, and so forth so that the police officer can be certain a vehicle they are pulling over is the one identified by the anonymous tipper.

In the 2004 case of the State v. Christine Sousa, the NH Supreme Court decided that the ensuing criteria must be met for an anonymous report to meet the requirements for reasonable suspicion:

“We hold the following factors, viewed in light of the totality of the circumstances, are important when evaluating whether an anonymous tip gives rise to reasonable suspicion. First, whether there is a “sufficient quantity of information” such as the vehicle's make, model, license plate number, location and bearing, and “similar innocent details” so that the officer may be certain that the vehicle stopped is the one the tipster identified. Wheat, 278 F.3d at 731. Second, the time interval between the police receiving the tip and the police locating the suspect vehicle. Id. Third, whether the tip is based upon contemporaneous eyewitness observations. Id. at 734; see Blake, 146 N.H. at 4. Fourth, whether the tip   is sufficiently detailed to permit the reasonable inference that the tipster has actually witnessed an ongoing motor vehicle offense.”

Officer Detention Lengths Do Have Limits

After a police officer requires for a motorist to stop, there is a limited amount of time in which he or she has to determine if there is a legal basis for their suspicion. The questions a police officer poses ”must be carefully tailored to its underlying justification … [and] must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop.”

If a police officer stops a motorist for one offense, such as speeding, and starts to question the motorist about another possible suspicion, then they must be able to prove that:

1)      The line of questioning is reasonably related to the traffic stop’s initial justification

2)      The police officer possess articulable, reasonable that would justify the line of questions

3)      In light of the present circumstances, the questioning changed the fundamental nature of the detention or impermissibly prolonged it.

If you believe that you were illegally pulled over by a police officer or are facing DWI charges in the state of New Hampshire, please contact our law offices for a free evaluation of your case. It could make a significant difference.

 

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Disclaimer: Past results do not guarantee a future outcome. Results include cases in both Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Attorney Dan Hynes is admitted to practice law only in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. This website may be considered advertising. Contacting us does not create an attorney/client relationship and the information on this site is not legal advice and may be inaccurate or not applicable to your case. Each case is different.

Mailing Address: Dan Hynes PO BOX 598 Merrimack, NH 03054