Drunk Driving - DWI - O.U.I.L.

What is commonly called “drunk driving” or D.W.I., is actually defined in New Hampshire as “operating under the influence of liquor or drugs.” Often, the common acronym O.U.I.L. is used instead. Sometimes people refer to it as D.W.I., which stands for Driving While [under the] Influence, but the official New Hampshire term is O.U.I.L.

O.U.I.L. in New Hampshire is not the same as “drunk driving.” There is no requirement that one be “drunk,” i.e. intoxicated on either alcohol or drugs, or a combination of the two, in order to be guilty of the offense. O.U.I.L. is defined in New Hampshire as operating under the influence of liquor to the extent that one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired “to any degree.”

Often, those charged with the offense will protest that they were not “drunk,” but only “buzzed.”

If a judge or jury in a trial concludes that one was only “buzzed,” then the individual was certainly impaired “to any degree,” and the person is guilty of the offense.

The penalties for a conviction for O.U.I.L. in New Hampshire can be rather severe. An arrest for O.U.I.L. can have not only criminal penalties, including possible incarceration and fines, but can also result in additional administrative and collateral consequences involving a license loss, a motor vehicle record that could eventually result in additional periods of license loss, the requirements that one attend and successfully complete certain alcohol education training, and can even have a severe impact on the cost of purchasing the required automobile liability insurance. Under NH RSA 265-A one can be convicted of operating a motor vehicle O.U.I.L. if he or she operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or a combination of alcohol and drugs, of if one operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% by weight or higher.

The minimum penalty for a first offense conviction of O.U.I.L. is a nine month loss of license. The period of license revocation can, at the discretion of the court, be as long as two years. Should a person convicted of the offense enroll in, and successfully complete, an alcohol education program within a timely manner following conviction, as much as six months of the minimum period of license loss can be reduced.

Any person convicted of O.U.I.L. will be required to attend an alcohol education program and to complete said program, together with any and all follow-up that the program may recommend, prior to getting his or her privileges to operate a motor vehicle restored. Individuals have to pay for this alcohol education program out of their own pocket.

The penalties for a subsequent OU.I.L. offense are markedly steeper. If a person is convicted of O.U.I.L. that occurred within ten years of a first offense O.U.I.L. conviction, the 2nd offense of O.U.I.L. conviction carries a minimum three year loss of license, and is a Class A misdemeanor subjecting the person to as much as 12 months in the House of Correction. At a minimum, ten days of this period of incarceration can not be suspended, which means that anyone convicted of a 2nd offense must serve ten days of incarceration. Of that ten days, seven are served at a alcohol or drug education center, and three are served at a county House of Correction.

New Hampshire also has an offense called “Aggravated O.U.I.L.,” which is a misdemeanor and can also result in a period of incarceration. A person can be convicted of aggravated driving while intoxicated under NH RSA 265-A:3 if he or she operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .16% or higher by weight.

A person can also be guilty of aggravated OUIL if he or she, while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug, or any combination thereof, drives at a speed more than 30 m.p.h. in excess of the limit, causes a motor vehicle, boating or OHRV collision resulting in serious bodily injury, attempts to elude pursuit by a law enforcement officer, or carries as a passenger a person under the age of 16. A person can also be convicted of aggravated driving while intoxicated if, while having an alcohol concentration of a 0.08% or more (or, in the case of a person under the age of 21 at the time of the offense, 0.02% or more) does any of the above aforementioned acts.

Any person convicted of aggravated O.U.I.L. shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, can be sentenced to up to one year in the House of Correction, shall be fined at least $750.00 plus the penalty assessment, and must serve at least ten consecutive days of incarceration of which seven shall be served at the Multiple Offender Program, and three of which must be served at the House of Correction. The person so convicted shall also lose his or her driver’s license for at least 18 months, and, at the discretion of the Court, can lose it for as much as two years. Last, the person who is convicted of this offense could also be subject to additional drug and alcohol treatment and counseling at the direction of the court.

If the person convicted of aggravated driving committed the offense while causing a motor vehicle, boating or OHRV collision, then the maximum punishment is a Class B felony for which the person must be sentenced to a minimum mandatory period of 21 consecutive days of which 14 must be served in the county correctional facility followed by seven consecutive days at the seven-day Multiple Offender Program. The minimum fine for this Class B felony conviction is $1,000.00.

The sentences referenced above are minimums. As with any Class B felony the person convicted could be sentenced for up to 3½ years to 7 years at the State Prison, and, as with any conviction for aggravated O.U.I.L., the person’s license loss would range from 18 months to two years.

In addition to the criminal penalties set forth above there can also be severe administrative penalties administered through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The penalties for so-called drunk driving, D.W.I. or O.U.I.L. convictions, where there has been serious bodily injury, multiple prior convictions, or death, escalate dramatically. If you are charged with any of these offenses you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible after you are charged.

The above is provided as a summary of some of the laws in New Hampshire and should not be considered an exhaustive list. For personal advice regarding any particular situation please contact a New Hampshire lawyer.