New year, new laws. At least that’s the case for us here in New Hampshire. In January 2023 several new laws took effect. Among these laws is Senate Bill 306. The new distracted driving law which seeks to increase penalties for certain driving violations that occur while a person is using a cell phone. This law is a prime example of how the law tries to adapt to technological changes. As human innovation progresses, the law should be flexible with how it treats behavior related to modern devices. This is why laws are constantly reviewed, amended, and put into our out of legislation.
A press release put out by the State of New Hampshire says, “according to the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety, there have been 42 fatal crashes with distraction or inattention as the primary causation from 2014 through 2020. It is estimated that in 2020, distracted driving accounted for as much as 30% of all crashes throughout New Hampshire, and the use of portable electronic mobile devices accounted for an average of 11% of those distraction related crashes.”
“‘Distracted driving is dangerous and irresponsible. If you’re using your phone while driving, then you’re not driving,’ said New Hampshire State Police Captain Christopher Vetter, Commander of the Office of Highway Safety. ‘Your eyes need to stay on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your focus on driving. Put your phone away when you get behind the wheel – it will save your life and the lives of those around you.’”
Senate Bill 306 “provides for enhanced penalties for certain driving offenses where the offense was also based on facts involving the prohibited use of a mobile electronic device.”
Senate Bill 306 reads as follows:
“92:1 New Paragraph; Criminal Code; Sentences and Limitations. Amend RSA 651:2 by inserting after paragraph II-g the following new paragraph:
II-h. A person charged with any offense under RSA 265, RSA 265-A, or RSA 630:3 whose offense was also based on facts involving the prohibited use of a mobile electronic device while driving, as defined in RSA 265:79-c, may be subject to enhanced penalties for such offenses, as follows:
(a) If the offense would otherwise constitute a violation, it may be charged as a class B misdemeanor.
(b) If the offense would otherwise constitute a class B misdemeanor, it may be charged as a class A misdemeanor.
(c) If the offense would otherwise constitute a class A misdemeanor, it may be charged as a class B felony.
(d) If the offense would otherwise constitute a class B felony, it may be charged as a class A felony.
(e) If the offense is a class A felony or an unclassified felony, there shall be no enhanced charge.”
Essentially, this law adds additional penalties, and a higher level of offense, for already existing laws. So, for example, 265-A, covers driving while intoxicated under drugs or alcohol. A first-time offense in New Hampshire is a Class B misdemeanor, which is a crime and includes a fine of no less than $500 plus penalty assessment for a total fine of $620. In addition, there is a mandatory license suspension of at least nine months and up to two years. If a person was also using their phone, they’ll face additional charges.
Understanding updates to the law and how it is changing with technology is critical for citizens. You have to know your rights and the standards to which all are held. It’s part of belonging to a community and, beyond that, an integral part of ensuring you have an understanding of how the law applies to you.
Are you facing potential driving related charges? Or have questions on the new distracted driving law. Contact our New Hampshire legal team for help understanding what you may be facing. Our team is happy to consult with you at no cost and if we represent you will work to get the most favorable results possible.