After conviction for DWI in New Hampshire, there is a further review of the case by the DMV through Bureau of Hearings. The statute authorizing post-conviction interlock review allows the Bureau of Hearings to order the installation and maintenance of an interlock if the hearings examiner decides that “the safety of the person and of other users of the highways would be enhanced thereby”.
CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES TO INTERLOCK HEARINGS
There is a a strong argument to be made that the statute violates the doctrine of separation of powers. The vague wording of the statute gives neither the public, nor the Bureau of Hearings, any guidance as to the implementation of the law. The legislature has essentially instructed the Bureau of Hearings to produce some criteria to figure out which cases are appropriate for review. Once the Bureau of Hearings has made up some criteria for screening cases, it orders people to come before it to explain why they should not be forced to install the interlock.
There is also a strong argument to be made that the Bureau of Hearings is violating the Administrative Procedures Act where it has no written rules describing the criteria for determining whether a person meets the vague standard of the statute. “No agency rule is valid or effective against any person or party, nor may it be enforced by the state for any purpose, until it has been filed as required in this chapter and has not expired.” RSA 541-A:22. As of this writing, no such rules have been filed.
All of the legal arguments, however, are of little practical use to those ordered before the Hearings Examiner to plead their case for avoiding the interlock order. When you have been ordered to appear at a hearing, you must appear and be prepared to present your case for avoiding the interlock.
WHO WILL BE HEARING YOUR CASE
Hearings Examiners are assigned to cases as you appear for the hearing. Whichever one is available when your case is ready to be heard is the one you get. In many cases, it doesn’t matter which Hearings Examiner you get as they all tend to follow the rules and the rules are often very clear with regard to a given set of facts. In the case of the interlock hearing, however, the hearings examiner assigned can make a significant difference in the outcome of the hearing. With almost complete discretion and no real guidance, it’s up to the Hearings Examiner to make decisions about whether you have to install and maintain an interlock for a year or more.
WHAT THE HEARINGS EXAMINERS ARE LOOKING FOR
Some consistencies come from representing clients through many of these interlock hearings.
- The cases that make it in front of hearings examiners typically involve something more than a simple DWI first offense. High blood alcohol levels, aggravating facts surrounding the reason for law enforcement involvement, a modified charge from more severe to less severe, or multiple charges that result in a single DWI 1st offense conviction.
- Once the case is in front of a Hearings Examiner, the question (after initial formalities) focus first on development of the facts of the case that gave rise to the interlock hearing. The Hearings Examiner is trying to verify or dispel suspicions that the offense was significantly more severe than the conviction suggests.
- Next, the questions often progress to what measures were ordered during the IDCMP or other treatments and evaluations. The Hearings Examiner is apparently trying to ferret out indications of a serious alcohol or drug dependence issue. Often this line of questioning involves and inquiry into sobriety since the traffic stop.
- Finally, the Hearings Examiner will inquire into the programs and other measures that the driver has engaged in since the traffic stop. Some people check in to rehabs the day after their arrest. Others wait until the very last minute and beyond before doing the bare minimum ordered by the court. Most are somewhere in between.
The question that authorities throughout the process seem to be trying to answer is: “Is there anything about this case that indicates that this person someone who is likely to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the future?” After each hearing, the Examiner has to apply their own experience and knowledge to answer this question for themselves.
If the Hearings Examiner determines that there is something about the person or the case that leads them to believe that the driver is likely to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the future, then s/he will order the person to install an ignition interlock in any vehicle registered or used by the driver. The ignition interlock order usually lasts one year and cannot exceed two years.
CAN THEY ORDER AN INTERLOCK AFTER I HAVE MY LICENSE BACK?
Interlock hearings often occur weeks or months after the driver’s license has already been restored. Although the restoration of driving privileges used to prevent the interlock order from being imposed, the legislature has closed that loophole making the absurdity complete. So, it is entirely possible (in fact, common) that a person could lose his/her license from a DWI arrest, have it restored after an administrative hearing, have it suspended again after conviction, have it restored again, and months later be required to add an interlock to the vehicle s/he has been driving for months without one.
WHAT TO DO NEXT?
We charge a fixed fee of $1,250.00 for representation at Alcohol Ignition Interlock hearings. We will review discovery to frame the facts in the most favorable light, gather documents from post arrest evaluations and treatment, meet with you to discuss the procedure of the hearing and your role, then appear for the hearing and present the best case for avoiding the alcohol ignition interlock penalty.
Call now for a free initial consultation. You can reach Attorney Sweeney at (855) 603-3841. This is not legal advice. Attempts to use internet articles as a foundation for representing yourself at a hearing involving complex legal and factual issues would be foolish.