One of the first things that anyone facing a DWI wonders is, “how long will I lose my license?” New Hampshire is a rural state with very little public transportation. Most people drive to work and risk losing their job without a license. Of course, most people also need to do things like transport children, run errands, get to medical appointments, and so on. However, despite these serious considerations the courts have held a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right.
Loss of License for a Simple First Offense
The DWI loss of license laws are complicated and they frequently change. So it’s wise to consult with an experienced New Hampshire DWI Lawyer if you are facing such a charge.
This post focuses on the potential loss of license for a first offense DWI that is not considered aggravated. For repeat offenders, or when there are certain “aggravating factors,” the loss of license will be much greater. But for now we are going to focus on what is probably the most common situation, a simple first offense.
The maximum loss of license for a first offense is two years. The minimum is nine months. However, the Court can suspend up to six months of this minimum if the driver completes the Impaired Driver Care Management Program (“IDCMP”) according to some very strict deadlines. You can theoretically get your license back in as little 90 days. In practice, however, it can be tricky to complete the IDCMP program fast enough.
There is Also an “Administrative License Suspension” to Worry About
The Administrative License Suspension (“ALS”) is a separate potential suspension of your license. The DMV imposes it, not the court. The ALS suspension occurs in two ways. The first is if the driver refuses a properly requested breathalyzer, physical, or blood test. The second is if the driver takes the test and gets a BAC .08 or higher. The ALS suspension starts at 12:01 am 30 days of the date of arrest. For a first offense the suspension is six months. For a repeat offense it’s two years.
If the driver refuses to take the test, the ALS suspension must run consecutive to (that is, in addition to) the court loss of license. However, if the driver agrees to take the test but has a BAC over the limit, the ALS suspension runs concurrent with (that is, at the same time as) the court loss of license.
So, if a driver gets the minimum loss of license in court, but a six month ALS suspension for refusing the test, the total minimum net loss of license is actually nine months. On the other hand, if the same driver takes the test and goes over the limit, the total suspension can be as low as six months. This assumes that the two losses of licenses run together the whole time. Because different entities impose these losses of license, the timing can be critical.
Any driver facing an ALS suspension has the right to challenge it by requesting a hearing within thirty days of the arrest. Otherwise it goes into effect automatically. DMV enforces this deadline very strictly. Many drivers don’t fully appreciate this deadline and it has already passed before they even talk to a lawyer.
How Can the Loss of License Be Reduced?
In many cases the DWI lawyers at Cohen & Winters have been successful at convincing the prosecutor to withdraw the ALS suspension as part of a plea bargain. This can sometimes dramatically reduce the total loss of license from 9 months down to 3 months. Our lawyers have even had success convincing hearings officers that the police improperly administered or requested the test. In those cases the hearings officers threw out the ALS suspension altogether.
Another possibility that we may be able to achieve is to convince the prosecutor to reduce the DWI charge to a lesser charge. We strive to cast enough doubt about the strength of the state’s case that the prosecutor wants to settle instead of going to trial and risking a complete loss. Or we may be able to convince the prosecutor that our client had specific mitigating circumstances in her own life that may have caused the decision to drive. Each case is different and it is important to have a strong advocate in your corner.
Can We Help?
If you or someone you love has been arrested for DWI we encourage you to contact us today and speak with one our experienced lawyers. There are strict deadlines for filing for a review fo the administrative license suspension, so don’t delay in getting legal advice.
The laws are complicated and strict. We have the experience and compassion to help get you through it.