New Hampshire DUI/DWI Laws, Fines & Penalties

Beautiful mature woman thinking while driving her car for the city at night.
••• nensuria/iStock/GettyImages

Related Articles

New Hampshire's drunk driving laws are similar to those in place around the country. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) by drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two can lead to jail, loss of driving privileges, fines, substance abuse treatment and possible community service, among other penalties. Known as driving under the influence (DUI) in many other states, the number of prior DUI convictions, as well as other circumstances such as evading police, causing serious injury to another, or driving well above the speed limit, can change a charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. This affects drivers under 21 as well as commercial vehicle drivers, who may receive even harsher penalties. A DWI will stay on a driver's record for 10 years.

Standard DWI in New Hampshire

New Hampshire DWI laws are essentially the same as those in all 50 states: a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater faces arrest for impaired driving. However, drivers who show lower limits also face arrest if there is obvious impairment. The limit is lower for those who hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) at only 0.04 percent or higher, and drivers under age 21 face arrest with a BAC limit of 0.02 percent or greater.

A motor vehicle does not have to be in motion for an arrest to occur, according to New Hampshire statute Chapter 265-A. An impaired person in "actual physical control" of a vehicle faces arrest if they are in the driver's seat at the time of the traffic stop, even if they are sleeping, resting or otherwise sheltering in place.

First-Offense DWI and Penalties

In New Hampshire, a first-offense DWI is a Class B misdemeanor, according to NOLO. This type of misdemeanor does not usually carry jail time, but can result in these penalties:

  • Fine of $500 to $1,200.
  • Referral to the state's Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) for substance abuse evaluation.
  • Completion of the state's Impaired Driver Education Program.
  • License revocation of nine months to two years. The court can suspend revocation for up to six months and require the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) during that time.
  • Random substance abuse testing.
  • NH SR22 insurance requirement.

There are also administrative penalties from the New Hampshire Department of Safety, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that require completion, even if there is no conviction. They are:

  • Six-month administrative license suspension period.
  • Issuance of a probationary license for a minimum of five years in which the driver cannot operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.03 percent or higher. A violation will result in a 90- to 180-day license suspension.

Second-Offense DWI and Penalties

A second-offense DWI is a Class A misdemeanor. This type of misdemeanor results in these penalties:

  • Mandatory 30-day jail sentence with prior DWI within two years; mandatory five-day sentence if the prior occurred between two and 10 years.
  • Fine of $750 to $2,000.
  • Referral to the state's Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) for substance abuse evaluation.
  • Completion of the state's Impaired Driver Education Program.
  • License revocation of three years.
  • Random substance abuse testing.
  • NH SR22 insurance requirement.

There will also be DMV administrative penalties that require completion, even if there is no DUI conviction. They are:

  • Two-year license suspension.
  • Issuance of a probationary license for a minimum of five years in which the driver cannot drive with a BAC level of 0.03 percent or higher. A violation will result in a 90- to 180-day suspension.

Third-Offense DWI and Penalties

A third-offense DWI is also a Class A misdemeanor and carries these penalties:

  • Mandatory 180-day jail sentence.
  • Fine of $750 to $2,000.
  • Referral to the state's Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) for substance abuse evaluation.
  • Completion of the state's Impaired Driver Education Program.
  • Indefinite license revocation.
  • Random substance abuse testing.
  • Minimum of 28 days in a residential treatment program facility or in a substance abuse treatment program.
  • NH SR22 insurance requirement.

There are also DMV administrative penalties that require completion, even if there is no conviction. They are:

  • Two-year license suspension.
  • Issuance of a probationary license for a minimum of five years in which the driver cannot drive with a BAC level of 0.03 percent or higher. Violation will result in a 90- to 180-day suspension.

Aggravated DWI and Penalties

Specific circumstances can change a DWI from a misdemeanor charge to a felony. These are called "aggravated" offenses and they carry harsher penalties. These circumstances include:

  • Driving at 30 mph or more in excess of the posted speed limit.
  • Causing an accident that leads to serious bodily injury.
  • Attempting to elude law enforcement.
  • Driving with a passenger under 16 while impaired.
  • Driving with a BAC level of 0.16 percent or higher.

A driver with an aggravated DWI faces these penalties:

  • Class A misdemeanor: $750 fine; minimum of 17 days in jail (the court can suspend 12 days with five served); IID installation; license suspension of 18 months to two years; random impairment testing.
  • Class B felony: $1,000 fine; minimum of 35 days in jail (the court can suspend 21 days with 14 served); IID installation; license suspension of 18 months to two years; random impairment testing.

Implied Consent Law and Penalties

New Hampshire law states that drivers automatically give their consent to chemical testing once they get behind the wheel. Law enforcement must have probable cause to request a blood, urine or breath test if they suspect impairment. Refusing an officer's request for a chemical test is a violation of the law, according to NOLO, and a prosecutor can use that refusal against a driver in court.

A driver who refuses a blood, breath or urine test faces penalties in addition to those for DWI. They are:

  • First refusal: License suspension of 180 days; NH SR22 insurance requirement.
  • Two or more refusals: License suspension of two years; NH SR22 insurance requirement; IID installation for one to two years.

Underage Drivers, DWI and Penalties

In some states, drivers under 21 face lesser DWI charges, but an impaired underage driver in New Hampshire faces the same, or greater, penalties than adults do. Penalties for underage offenders with a BAC level of 0.02 percent are:

  • Minimum license suspension of one year.
  • Minimum $500 fine.
  • Referral to the state's Impaired Driver Care Management Program (IDCMP) for substance abuse evaluation.
  • Completion of the state's Impaired Driver Education Program.

According to Ignition Interlock Help, the court can require the installation of an IID on any car an underage offender drives for one year or until the driver turns 21, whichever date is last. The state holds offenders responsible for the monitoring and calibration of the device every 90 days, and they are responsible for any costs associated with it.

CDL Drivers, DWI and Penalties

CDL drivers face stiffer administrative penalties than do standard driver's license holders. Furthermore, a conviction can hinder their ability to work for years or even for a lifetime, according to Lothstein Guerriero, PLLC. While the "look-back" period is 10 years for a noncommercial driver, the state considers all convictions to be priors for a CDL driver. Offenders must notify their employer within 30 days if convicted of a DUI in any vehicle and must contact the New Hampshire DMV within the same amount of time if convicted in another state.

The penalties for a CDL driver with a DWI conviction are the same as for those holding a noncommercial license, and the DMV can restrict the driver's CDL for these time periods:

  • First offense: At least one year; at least three years if the driver transports hazardous materials.
  • Second offense: A lifetime, with the option of petitioning for reinstatement in 10 years.

Open Container Law and Penalties

New Hampshire's open container law states that it is illegal for both drivers and passengers to transport or possess an open alcoholic beverage – unsealed, otherwise open or partially full – in the main area of a vehicle. Passengers cannot have an open alcoholic beverage when the vehicle is in a public parking area.

Drivers who violate the open container law face a $150 fine and possible license suspension of 60 days for their first offense. With subsequent offenses, the fine remains the same, but the license suspension goes to up to one year. Underage offenders also face a 60-day suspension for their first offense and cannot transport alcohol of any kind unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, or doing so for work.

Open Container Exemptions

There are some exceptions to the open container law. Passengers in vehicles for hire, such as buses, taxis and limousines can possess open alcoholic beverages as long as they are out of reach of the driver. A person transporting open alcoholic beverages can store them in the trunk of a vehicle or, in the absence of a trunk, in the area furthest away from the driver.

Open bottles of wine are exempt for transport as long as they are from a licensed establishment. Customers must purchase them with a full course meal, and the establishment must bag and otherwise securely seal the bottle before the patron places it in their trunk, or in the absence of a trunk, in a space furthest away from the driver.

Marijuana Impairment and Penalties

While marijuana use is legal in New Hampshire, it is still illegal to drive under its influence. The penalties for driving while impaired by marijuana are generally the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol:

  • First offense: Minimum $500 fine; license suspension of nine months to two years; Impaired Driver Education Program enrollment required.
  • Second offense: Minimum $750 fine; mandatory 30-day jail sentence; impaired Driver Education Program enrollment required; license revocation of three years.
  • Third offense: Minimum $750 fine; mandatory 180-day jail sentence; Impaired Driver Education Program enrollment required; license revocation of three years or more.

There is no legal limit for THC (marijuana's active ingredient) in a driver's system because there is no definitive way to measure it to determine when consumption took place. THC stays in a driver's system for at least a number of days and test results can lead to false arrest, according to Russman Law. However, if law enforcement reasonably suspects that a driver was impaired from marijuana, the driver can face DWI charges regardless of test results.