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DUI Defenses in New Hampshire

Though there are many possible defenses to drunk driving, some are more successful than others.  Most attorneys will challenge a DWI charge based on the reason for the stop, probable cause to arrest, or the tests and procedures used by the officer.

A large majority of DWI charges will arise when an officer stops a motorist for a moving violation, such as speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, changing lanes or turning without signaling, or coming to a rolling stop at a stop sign.  A prosecutor will almost always attempt to introduce evidence of the defendant’s “erratic” driving pattern during a DWI case.  Although any violation that an officer observes will allow him to stop a motorist, this is not necessarily evidence that a driver is impaired.  For example, almost all drivers have more likely than not crossed the center line or fog line while driving around a corner in the road, and nearly all drivers speed at some point while operating their vehicle.  Most traffic violations occur by motorists who are not under the influence of alcohol and drugs.  An experienced attorney will ask the officer questions on cross examination about what the defendant did correctly while driving, which may significantly outweigh the evidence of one or two minor violations.

The prosecution will also attempt to offer evidence of the officer’s observations of the driver that lead him to believe the driver was operating under the influence.  “Symptoms” of impairment may include slurred speech, watery or bloodshot eyes, poor balance, unsteadiness, flushed face, fidgeting, or the scent of alcohol.  Many of these symptoms can be exhibited by drivers who are in no way under the influence of alcohol.  Drowsiness, physical exertion, allergies, sickness, a person’s mood and/or emotions, and exposure to weather (such as sun or wind) can all be causes of the symptoms listed above and many more.  Most drivers also typically become nervous when dealing with law enforcement officials and this can result in the driver appearing to be uneasy or shaky, fidgeting, speaking differently or erratically, or “appearing guilty” in some way.  When defending against DWI charges, any and all possible explanations for the drivers “symptoms” of impairment should be put forth to combat the charges.

Finally, any impaired driving charge should be challenged, or at the very least critically analyzed, to determine whether the officer or any other person involved in the case followed the correct procedures.  New Hampshire law requires that officers, medical professionals, and laboratories follow an extremely strict set of guidelines when investigating a possible DWI charge or doing chemical testing.  Officers are required to provide certain information to individuals before performing both physical and chemical tests, when arresting an individual, and when administering and handling tests and samples.  They are also required to follow strict procedures while administering those tests, especially field sobriety tests.  Testing is only allowed at certain facilities and it is possible that samples could be switched, lost, or mishandled.  New Hampshire law even requires that breath testing machines be properly calibrated, and the prosecution must introduce very specific evidence to prove that these machines worked properly at the time of the test.  Attorneys who specialize in defending impaired driving charges will be knowledgeable of the specific requirements.  They may direct an officers testimony to show which parts of the field sobriety tests the defendant performed well, specifically call into question the procedures used by the officer, or challenge the validity of chemical test results.

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