DWI and Criminal Law
Have You Been Accused of a Crime?
You Always have Options. Being accused of any offense is a very stressful experience. Even if you are stopped for a minor traffic violation, you can feel your heart racing when those blue lights start flashing behind you. We strongly recommend you seek advice whenever you face the situation of being accused of any offense. Many rights can be affected, depending on the charge, from your right to drive all the way to your personal freedom. We are experienced defense attorneys, handling all types of violations, misdemeanors and felonies. You can always call Normand | Higham for a free telephone consultation to understand all of your rights and options.
A misdemeanor sometimes is considered by some offenders to be a minor charge.
A misdemeanor in New Hampshire is a crime and will give you a criminal record.
The Class-A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail plus a $2,000.00 fine. A Class-B misdemeanor carries no jail time but is still a “crime” that will create a criminal record. A class B Felony can carry a prison sentence of 3 ½ to 7 years and a class A Felony carries a sentence of 7 ½ to 15 years in state prison.
While every criminal charge is different, and no competent lawyer can promise a result, most of our clients charged with crimes receive sentences far less than the maximum sentence possible under the original charge. Many are found not guilty. Many subsequently reach a plea bargain arrangement for a lesser charge with more modest impacts on their lives. You and your family deserve a top-to-bottom review of your criminal charge by a competent criminal attorney.
If you have been charged with a crime, you already know that the experience was very stressful, embarrassing, and that you simply want to put it behind you as quickly as possible. Resist the temptation to plead guilty to the initial charge made by the police before you have had an opportunity to review all of the circumstances of your arrest.
The New Hampshire and federal constitutions afford you with many constitutional rights that are frequently violated by law enforcement and provide an opportunity to improve your situation, even if you made a mistake the day of your arrest. If you are accused of a crime, make certain that you seek competent legal advice.
Do not simply plead guilty to get it over with in your moment of embarrassment. You Have Options. If you are indigent, the court may appoint a public defender to represent you. You always have the right to hire your own attorney, who will provide you with individualized attention and service. We are experienced defense attorneys, handling all types of criminal offenses from DWI offenses to more serious felony charges.
You can always call Normand | Higham for a free telephone consultation so that you may gain an understanding of our individual rights and your options on how best to proceed.
Have You Been Charged with DWI?
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
If you have been charged with DWI, do not delay. The potential penalties are severe. You should seek the advice of an experienced DWI attorney immediately in order to preserve important rights.
You Have Important Rights, Act Quickly!
You have a right to challenge the ALS suspension, but must do so within 30 days or your right to do so will be lost! In most cases (except for cases involving blood draws), you only have 30 days from the date of your arrest to challenge the ALS suspension by requesting an Administrative Hearing at the D.O.S. in front of a Hearings Examiner. If you fail to request a hearing, your right to do so is forever waived. You would lose the opportunity to possibly prevent the ALS suspension. You would lose an important bargaining chip to use in plea negotiations with the State. You would lose the opportunity to question the arresting police officer(s) under oath and to obtain a transcript of this proceeding to use when plea bargaining and/or at the time of your trial in court.
Do I Submit to a Breathalyzer Test?
Many people wonder whether they should submit to testing or not (including field sobriety tests). Generally, if you think you are over the legal limit, do not submit to testing. If you feel you are below the legal limit, take any tests offered to you. In addition to the ALS, you must also deal with the court case that follows a DWI arrest. A first offense DWI is now considered a crime in the State of New Hampshire and carries a mandatory minimum penalty that includes a $500 fine and a 9-month loss of license. In order to get your license reinstated, you must also complete what is referred to as the Impaired Driver’s Intervention Program (IDIP).
A second offense within 2 years of the first carries a 3-year loss of license, a $750 fine, and a mandatory 30-day jail sentence, followed by a 7-day residential intervention program. A second offense committed beyond 2 years of the first, but within 10 years, carries a 3-year license loss, a $750 fine, and a mandatory 3-day jail sentence, plus the 7-day residential intervention program.
The penalties get worse the more convictions you have. And a fourth offense can now be charged as a felony in New Hampshire.
In addition to the penalties described above, a DWI conviction can have collateral consequences depending on other factors, such as the type of license you hold (e.g. CDL), your motor vehicle record (Habitual Offender), immigration status, employment status, etc. For example, many people would never guess that a DWI conviction can result in certain travel restrictions (e.g. entry into Canada and other countries). You should consult a lawyer about the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your case.
In order to establish probable cause to arrest, the investigating officer will typically employ a battery of standardized field sobriety tests consisting of (1) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN), (2) the Walk-and-Turn test, and (3) the One-Leg-Stand test.
These tests are sometimes difficult to perform even if you are sober. But what is even more unfair is while the investigator will explain, and should demonstrate, how to perform the tests, he or she will not tell you about the clues they look for in determining whether you pass or fail.
The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN)
For example, when conducting the HGN (nystagmus = involuntary jerking of the eyes, normally almost imperceptible, but exacerbated by elevated levels of blood alcohol), the officer will tell you that he is going to check your eyes. He will instruct you to keep your head still and follow the stimulus (usually a pen), with your eyes only, and to keep focusing on the stimulus until he tells you to stop. He is supposed to hold the stimulus 12-15 inches from your nose. In addition to the three standardized clues [(1) lack of smooth pursuit: eyes unable to track stimulus smoothly; (2) distinct and sustained nystagmus at maximum deviation: jerking more pronounced when no white showing in the corner of your eye; (3) onset of nystagmus prior to 45 degrees: eyes start jerking before the pen reaches 45 degrees (0 degrees being the starting point straight out in front of your nose)], the officer will note whether you are able to follow instructions – typically whether you’re able to remember to keep your head still and follow the stimulus/pen with your eyes only. At the start of the test, he will not tell you that if you fail to do this, he will note it in his report as a sign of impairment.
When the officer conducts the Walk-and-Turn, he will begin with the Instructional Stage and tell you to place your right foot in front of your left foot, touching heel-to-toe. Keep your arms down at your side. Hold the position until told to begin. He will then move on to the Demonstration and Walking Stage and tell you to take nine heel-to-toe steps down a line (imaginary line if no line exists), turn around, and take nine heel-to-toe steps back. The officer will tell you that when you turn you should keep your front foot on the line and turn by taking a series of small steps with the other foot. When walking, keep your arms down at your sides, watch your feet, and count your steps out loud. The police officer will not tell you that he or she will look for eight clues. Whether you can (1) keep your balance during the instructional stage (whether your feet break apart), (2) start before being told to begin, (3) stop while walking to steady yourself (more than a couple seconds), (4) do not touch heel-to-toe (1/2 inch or more), (5) step off the line (one foot entirely off the line), (6) use your arms to balance (raise one or both more than 6 inches from side), (7) turn improperly (remove both feet from the line), and (8) take incorrect number of steps.
The officer will not tell you that if you exhibit two or more of these clues, he will mark you down as having failed the test!
Like the Walk-and-Turn, the officer will start with the Instructional Stage and tell you to stand with your feet together and your arms down at your side. Do not start until told to begin. He will move to the Demonstration and Balancing & Counting Stage by explaining that when he tells you to start raise one leg, either leg, approximately 6 inches off the ground, toes pointed out. Keep both legs straight, arms at side. While holding that position, count out loud to 30 beginning with “one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.,” until told to stop. Keep your arms at your sides and keep watching your raised foot.
The officer will not tell you that if you exhibit two or more of the following clues, you will fail the test: (1) sway while balancing, (2) use arms for balance (raising them 6 inches or more), (3) hop, or (4) put your foot down.
Now that you know what the rules are, you can fairly take the Field Sobriety Tests.
DWI: A Question of Judgement
Picture this: You go out for the evening and have some wine with dinner. You feel very much in control. While driving home, you suddenly see the flashing blue lights of a police cruiser pulling up behind you. The next thing you know, a police officer is asking you to do some “tests” at the side of the road, followed by an arrest for DWI. Is this situation hopeless? Not by a long shot. The vast majority of people charged with DWI are alleged to have been driving while “impaired” by alcohol or “under the influence” of liquor. What do those words mean? Even with today’s so-called “field sobriety tests”, breath tests, and blood tests, the ultimate decision about whether someone was impaired by alcohol while driving is up to a judge or jury.
To put it simply, it is a judgment call made on a case by case basis. If you feel that you have been wrongly accused, you do not have to settle for a police officer’s opinion. If you refused consent to blood alcohol testing, you may need to defend yourself before a criminal court and the DMV. Both types of review offer opportunities for improving the outcome and potential penalties you may be facing. We, of course, encourage you not to drink and drive. If, however you are arrested, you should hire a lawyer before risking a license loss and the other serious consequences that can result from a conviction. These cases can be successfully defended, but you will need an experienced attorney on your side. DWI charges are perhaps the most complicated of motor vehicle charges. You need an experienced lawyer who can investigate and evaluate your case and, if necessary, defend you at trial.
Legal Tip: Did you know that a charge of DWI, first offense, is now treated as a Class B misdemeanor? This means that a conviction will result in you having a criminal record. That criminal record could haunt you when trying to obtain a job or promotion. Call us for a free telephone consultation to discuss your rights. Resist the temptation to simply enter plea of guilty, even if you made a mistake the day of arrest.
It’s a Simple Speeding Ticket, Right?
Maybe – and maybe not. If the ticket says you “must appear” in court, be aware that the judge can take your license for up to 30 days for any traffic violation. Depending on your overall motor vehicle driving record, even a minor traffic violation can cause the Division of Motor Vehicles in Concord to take your license if you have too many “demerit points”. Even worse, the DMV can declare you to be a “habitual offender” and take your license for up to 4 years! For drivers under twenty, any traffic offense may trigger the DMV to suspend your license. Most folks in New Hampshire depend dearly on their licenses, especially to get to work and earn a living. There is no such thing as a special excuse to drive to work if you lose your license. If it’s gone, it's gone! We will request hearings before the DMV on clients’ behalf, appear in court with them; when doing so may improve the outcome of the review.
We recommend you consult a lawyer if:
- You Receive a “Must Appear” type ticket.
- You Receive any type of ticket, and you already have a record of traffic convictions.
- You Receive any type of notice from the DMV about your license or registration being suspended or revoked.
Don’t let a seemingly small traffic matter threaten your legal ability to drive. Get the right advice from an experienced attorney. It could mean the difference between driving and walking.
If You are Accused of a Crime
Call us at 1-603-624-6655. At Normand | Higham you will always find experienced lawyers willing to assist you in these matters.