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DUI and suspended sentences

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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.



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