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Obtaining a hardship license in New Hampshire after a DWI conviction

Starting in 2016, first-time offenders convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Hampshire became eligible for a "hardship license." Hardship licenses, also known as "Cinderella licenses," allow first-time offenders to drive to school, work, substance abuse programs or medical appointments during the term of their suspended license. Those convicted of DWI are eligible to apply for a hardship license by petitioning the court after serving at least 45 days of their license suspension; driving privileges under a hardship license are limited to certain times, days and locations based on work, school or medical needs.

The law concerning hardship licenses imposes a number of restrictions, such as requiring the installation of an automatic locking device triggered by a Breathalyzer test. Hardship license holders who do not follow these limitations proscribed by the law face a fine of up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of one week. 

Problems of interpretation

This new law has the potential to allow first-time offenders to receive punishment for their offenses without being unduly prevented from working or pursuing their education. However, as both the New Hampshire Bar Association and members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives have noted, the manner in which the law is being interpreted by judges is controversial. As the law regarding hardship licenses is currently enforced, only those convicted of DWI can apply for a hardship license; drivers who face an Automatic License Suspension (ALS) due to failing or refusing to take a Breathalyzer test cannot receive a hardship license unless and until they are convicted.

This interpretation of the law means that an individual charged with DWI but found not guilty might end up losing their license for longer than someone convicted of DWI and granted a hardship license post-conviction. As noted by State Representative Laura Pantelakos, this construction of the law does not preserve the legislature's intent. In light of this, Pantelakos has indicated that the legislature will consider amending the law to allow for hardship licenses pre-conviction.

If you have been charged with DWI and have questions about regaining your license, contact The Law Offices of Stephen C. Brown & Associates. 

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