What Is A Points Suspension Hearing?
Drivers who accrue too many points over a one, two, or three year period, will receive a notice to appear at the Department of Safety to face a loss of license. At that hearing, a hearings officer, who is a lawyer that works for the Department of Safety, will determine how much of a loss of license to impose on you.
When you are convicted of a driving violation you will have assessed “points” against your driving license. If you receive too many points during a certain time frame, you will be subject to a loss of license.
The courts only notify the Department of Safety of the outcomes of your case; they do not suspend your license for points. When you accumulate too many points, the Department of Safety will evaluate and decide if you should have your license suspended. Your age determines how many points you can get before being suspended.
What Exactly Is a Point System?
Every state has a different method for assessing points, and for deciding how many points will trigger a potential loss of license. In New Hampshire, the points system is based on calendar years. The amount of points a driver can get is based on their age. Under New Hampshire driving rules, the number of allowed points, and the potential loss of license, works like this:
Drivers 21 years or older:
- 24 points in three consecutive calendar years = up to one year
- 18 points in two consecutive calendar years = up to six months
- 12 points in one calendar year =up to three months
Drivers under age 21 and over age 18:
- 21 points in three consecutive calendar years = up to one year
- 15 points in two consecutive calendar years = up to six months
- 9 points in one calendar year =up to three months
Drivers under the age of 18
- 18 points in three consecutive calendar years = up to one year
- 12 points in two consecutive calendar years = up to six months
- 6 points in one calendar year =up to three months
A person engages in a moving violation when they receive a citation for violating the rules of the road. This can be relatively routine violations like speeding or running a red light. Or it could involve more serious transgressions like driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident. Under the New Hampshire demerit points system, points assessed can range from a low of three to a high of six. Speeding, which is probably the most common moving violation, carries three points if the speed was less than 25 miles per hour over the limit. If the driver was traveling greater than 25 miles per hour over the limit then the violation carries four points.
The Department of Safety only assess points if the driver is convicted, meaning found guilty of the charge. Drivers can settle many types citations by mail or online instead of requiring a court appearance. If the driver pleads guilty or nolo contendere online or by mail, then they are found guilty and convicted. If they contest the charge, or are issued a summons to appear in court, then the final decision of the court will decide if they are convicted. Even for relatively minor offenses, drivers have the right to a trial in front of a judge if they wish.
Date of Violation, Not Date of Conviction
One element of the points suspension system that can confuse drivers is that the Department of Safety uses the date of the violation, not the date of conviction. Often this is in the same calendar year. However, it is also common that the date of conviction will come at a later date. For example, if the driving violation occurred in December of 2021, but the driver chose to contest the case in court and did not resolve the case until February of 2022. In that example, the points the Department of Safety will be assess the points as of 2021, not 2022. Some people think they can avoid too many points in one calendar year by fighting the ticket and pushing the court date into the next calendar year. If only it was that easy.
In extreme cases, the conviction can come many years after the violation date. For example, if a driver was arrested for driving under the influence but then “forgot” to come to court the court will issue a warrant for the person’s arrest. It may be years until they finally get arrested and appear in court. If found guilty, the points assessed will run retroactive all the way back to when the driving first occurred. If those points compound with points that were on the record back in that time, it can trigger a hearing based on a record from a long time ago.
If a New Hampshire driver accumulates points in another state, then the Department of Safety will look to the equivalent offense in New Hampshire, and assess the number of points that the conviction would have been assigned if the violation had occurred in New Hampshire.
In principal, divisions of motor vehicles across the states are supposed to exchange information with each other. However, the various rules and agreements vary and not all states share all information in the exact same way. Sometimes, due to policy reasons, or technology limitations, convictions in one state do not become known in another state. In other instances, there can be a very long delay before the information is transmitted. You should assume that an out-of-state violation will eventually show on your home state record and you will just be getting lucky if it does not.
A hearing regarding the license suspension the person goes in front of a hearings officers at the Bureau of Hearings. By request the hearing can take place over the phone or by video. If the driver fails to appear for the hearing, then the points are assessed automatically.
The driver has the right to hire a qualified New Hampshire driving lawyer to appear at the hearing with them. To help the client get through the difficult situation, the attorney could make a case against the offenses. Before the hearing even starts, preparation and attention to detail are crucial. Arguments against potential contrary evidence must be convincing to the department authorities. It is crucial to try and convince the hearing officer that keeping the license active is the proper course of action.
In contrast to criminal processes, these hearings are much less formal. But like in court, the license holder can offer evidence, explain their side of the story, and even bring a witness on their behalf. The hearing officer presiding over the hearing decides there is enough evidence to suspend the person’s license.
Points Suspension Compared to Other Types of Loss of License
We should point out that the points system is a major way for drivers to lose their license, but it is just one of many. Another more serious loss of license is imposed through the habitual offender system. This confuses many drivers because it is also based on a points-type system and the same violations can count for both demerit points and habitual offender purposes. However, habitual offender operates under its own system, looking over any five-year rolling period, not calendar years. The consequences of habitual offender are much more severe than an ordinary points suspension.
Other types of suspension include court-imposed suspensions, many of which are mandatory based on certain types of conviction, like driving under the influence or reckless operation; administrative license suspension, which is based on driving with too high a blood alcohol content or refusing to take a test; youth operator suspension; medical suspension; suspension for failure to appear in court or for failure to pay child support; and on and on and on. Drivers with many violations may find they are facing multiple suspensions, all of which involve the same violations calculated in different ways.
Can I Remove Points From My License?
Once the court enters a conviction, or the ticket is paid by mail or online, then the points are assessed automatically. Therefore, if you are concerned that you will have too many points, the time to contest the violation is in court, not at the Bureau of Hearings. A good traffic ticket attorney might be able to contest your ticket, or lessen the number of points resulting from the violation. Still, they won’t be able to take the points off your license after the fact. Once points have been assessed against your license, only time can remove them from your record.
New Hampshire does offer a chance to remove up to three points from your record by taking an approved driver improvement program. If you are close to having too many points, we highly recommend taking the class.
If you’re worried about accumulating points on your license, contact our experienced driving offense legal team. We’ve helped many clients get points removed from their license so they save on insurance costs and don’t deal with the long-term effects of having points on their license.