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DWI first offenders in New Hampshire offered opportunity to regain driving privileges

This Thursday is Saint Patrick's Day and thousands of residents in the Derry area are expected to celebrate with plates full of corned beef and cabbage and a glass or two of green beer. Unfortunately, for some, a fun evening spent celebrating with friends and strangers alike will end with a drunk driving arrest.

New Hampshire's drunk driving laws are among some of the harshest in the nation as the state serves to make an example of any and every driver who is convicted of a drunk driving offense. Even first-time offenders are subject to stiff penalties including a misdemeanor charge and fines of $500 or more. Additionally, an individual will be forced to submit to alcohol and drug testing and to complete an impaired driver program. Previously, first-time DWI offenders were also subject to at least a 90-day mandatory driver's license suspension. However, a change to this penalty went into effect on Jan. 1.

Now, first-time DWI offenders are allowed to file a petition seeking the reinstatement of their driving privileges via a restricted license. If a judge grants the petition, an individual is allowed to drive "only to work, school, doctor's appointments, or to a rehabilitation program." In addition to these driving restrictions, an individual must pay to install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle. Additionally, an individual must wait 45 days after a conviction to apply for a restricted license.

Proponents of the new restricted license program for first offenders agree that it helps lessen the blow of what many consider to be overly restrictive and punitive penalties. Some argue, however, that the 45-day mandatory wait period will still likely result in many first-time offenders losing their jobs and suffering other significant financial hardships.

A DWI conviction can negatively impact an individual's life in numerous and often unforeseen ways. It's imperative, therefore, that New Hampshire residents who are facing drunk driving charges seek the advice and assistance of a criminal defense attorney.

Source: New Hampshire Public Radio, "Law Allowing Limited Driving For First-Time DWI Offenders Goes Into Effect," Michael Brindley, Jan. 1, 2016

New Hampshire General Court, "TITLE XXI MOTOR VEHICLES, CHAPTER 265-A ALCOHOL OR DRUG IMPAIRMENT," March 15, 2016

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