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From Misdemeanor to Felony: Understanding DWI Laws in New Hampshire

On Behalf of | Apr 29, 2024 | Drunk Driving Defense

Driving under the influence (DUI), also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI), is a serious offense with potentially life-changing consequences. Like most states, New Hampshire takes a harsh stance against drunk driving. While a first-time DWI is typically a misdemeanor, repeat offenses or certain factors can elevate the charge to a felony.

Misdemeanor DWIs: First, second, and third offenses

The initial DWI offense falls under the category of a Class B misdemeanor. This has potential penalties like fines up to $2,000, a suspended license for up to one year and mandatory alcohol education courses.

A second DWI within ten years is also a Class B misdemeanor, but the fines increase to $4,000 and the license suspension extends to two years. Additionally, jail time of up to one year becomes a possibility. The third DWI offense remains a misdemeanor, classified as a Class A misdemeanor, with steeper fines of up to $5,000 and a potential jail sentence of up to two years. The license suspension for a third offense can reach three years.

When a DWI becomes a felony: Fourth offense and Aggravated DWI

The key factor that elevates a DWI to a felony is the number of prior offenses within a specific timeframe. A fourth DWI offense within ten years of the previous one is considered a Class B felony. This carries much harsher penalties, including mandatory jail time with a minimum of 180 days and potential fines reaching $10,000.

However, the number of offenses isn’t the only factor that can elevate a DWI to a felony. Aggravating circumstances can also trigger a felony charge, even for a first-time offense. These include:

  • Serious bodily injuries: If a DWI leads to an accident resulting in severe injuries to another person, the charge becomes “Aggravated DWI,” a Class B felony. This comes with significant jail time with a minimum of 21 days, with at least 14 days being mandatory and hefty fines.
  • Death: In the tragic case of a DWI causing someone’s death, the driver could face charges of negligent homicide, a Class A felony, which carries even harsher penalties.

It is important to understand the legal consequences of a DWI conviction, especially the potential to get felony charges.

A felony charge can impact your employment opportunities, housing options and even your ability to vote. You may consider consulting an experienced legal professional if you are facing DWI charges. They may help guide you explore defense options and help you navigate the complexities of the court system.

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