In New Hampshire, the terms DUI and DWI are used interchangeably. There is no difference between the charge of Driving While Intoxicated and the charge of Driving Under the Influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs. It is interesting to note that each of the two descriptions of the drunk driving charge begin with the word “driving”.
It’s common knowledge that, in order to be DWI or DUI, you must, of course be driving. That makes good sense. Unfortunately, common knowledge is based on common sense and New Hampshire law is not.
A bill that originated in the New Hampshire Senate would have exempted people who chose to sleep off any impairment in their cars from DWI/DUI prosecution, was killed by the House. Democrats in the House decided that police should be trusted to exercise judgment over whether an impaired person sleeping in their car should be arrested and prosecuted for DWI/DUI. However, testimony before the House on that issue made it clear that law enforcement rarely exercise that discretion in favor of the responsible person making sure he or she is not impaired before driving home. The legislature was not swayed by the facts. New Hampshire law has, once again, been protected from common sense.
“Driving” is defined under New Hampshire law as “to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle, OHRV, or snowmobile”. The New Hampshire Supreme court has fleshed out this definition further agreeing with law enforcement and lower courts that a person who is sound asleep in a car with the keys in the ignition is “driving” within the statutory definition. So, all three branches of New Hampshire government have agreed that sleeping is driving.
A person who feels that s/he may have had too much to drink and is a good distance from home, therefore, has a decision to make. Should s/he rest of sleep for a while in the car, risking drawing the attention of law enforcement, or should s/he risk driving home with all of the potential danger that choice entails. The law views both of those choices equally. Granted, the penalties increase dramatically is someone is injured as a result of the choice to avoid detection by law enforcement and make your way home. However, the simple act of sleeping while intoxicated is penalized equally with driving while intoxicated if either act is discovered by law enforcement before you make it home.
It’s not only the court penalties that equate cruising down the highway with sleeping in a parking lot. There is also an “automatic” 6 month license suspension for sleeping while intoxicated that is imposed by the DMV separate from the minimum mandatory penalties that the court must impose. The total minimum license suspension for those discovered sleeping while intoxicated is 16 months.
The cost of sleeping while intoxicated is similar as well. The court will require those convicted of sleeping while intoxicated to submit to a substance use disorder evaluation. The mandatory requirements are not eased for those responsible enough to choose not to drive home.
Before the senseless dominos begin to fall, contact the best NH DWI lawyer you can. ATTORNEY SHAWN SWEENEY has nearly 20 years of experience to bring to your case. You need the expertise of a lawyer who has been there many times. Attorney Sweeney offers a FREE CONSULTATION to help you understand the charges against you and the best path to avoid the most serious consequences when you have been charged with DUI. CALL (603) 589-8015.