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Aggravated drunk driving charge means enhanced penalties

Driving while intoxicated can lead to serious penalties. However, in New Hampshire, aggravated DWI is a drunk driving charge with enhanced penalties. There are several different circumstances that may warrant a charge of aggravated DWI, including driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit, causing a collision resulting in serious bodily injury, fleeing from the police, or carrying a passenger under the age of 16. It is also aggravated DWI to be driving with a blood alcohol level of .16 or more.

Aggravated DWI is generally a misdemeanor but it can be a felony where, for example, the defendant has a prior record of drunk driving. Recently, police charged a man with aggravated DWI after he allegedly crashed into two parked vehicles in Merrimack and then left the scene. They also charged him with conduct after an accident, which is the usual charge for a hit-and-run allegation.

Police reportedly responded to a call about the accident and caught up with the driver at a specified location. The vehicle was reportedly stopped. It is unclear whether the car was stopped permanently or temporarily at a traffic signal at the time. The defense will want to clarify whether the suspect was caught actually driving the vehicle.

This scenario raises defense concerns about mistaken identity. The government must prove that the suspect was driving the vehicle at the time and place in question. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously weak in a moving vehicle scenario like this one. There is also some indication that the suspect vehicle may have been parked at the time of the arrest.

Defense counsel may argue that a person fleeing from an accident would not still be in the vicinity where it occurred nor would he have stopped the car or parked it. Furthermore, the passage of time between the collision and the arrest may make it difficult for the prosecution to prove what the suspect's blood alcohol level, if any, was at the time of the accident. The prosecution must prove every required element of a drunk driving charge under New Hampshire law with credible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source:, "Manchester man faces aggravated DWI charge after Merrimack crash", Aug. 12, 2016

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