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Drunk driving charges escalate to a felony in a death case

The driving while intoxicated laws in New Hampshire are strict and complicated. As with all jurisdictions, the more serious the incident, the higher the penalties and consequences. In addition, repeated drunk driving offenses will increase the penalties.

The offense for driving while intoxicated with a resulting collision that causes serious bodily injury or death of  another is called felony aggravated driving while intoxicated. The crime carries a potential term of imprisonment from three and one-half to seven years. Of course, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

New Hampshire State Police recently arrested a man on a single count of felony aggravated driving while under the influence of alcohol involving a crash. The Massachusetts man, 31, was arrested on Feb. 1 after a crash near Exit 4 of I-93. The police report that he allegedly lost control of his vehicle, went over the center median and rolled over a number of times. His 22-year-old female passenger died in the accident.

When police arrived on the scene, they found the suspect out of the vehicle and seriously injured. He was transported to a hospital where he was later arrested on the charges. It is unknown whether the authorities conducted a blood alcohol test on the driver due to his condition. If they did not obtain consent for the blood test from the man, there could be constitutional problems, especially if blood was taken without his consent.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions placed significant importance on obtaining consent from an injured suspect, and blood samples taken while a defendant was unconscious have been ruled inadmissible against the defendant. Based on the exposure to a potentially lengthy prison sentence, the defendant facing felony aggravated drunk driving charges must obtain defense counsel  as soon as possible. Counsel could be invaluable in protecting and preserving certain defenses if retained quickly after the occurrence of the events.

Source: Londonderry, NH Patch, "Mass. Man Arrested After Fatal DWI Crash on I-93", Tony Schinella, Feb. 2, 2017

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