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Are dwi penalties too lenient?

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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.



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