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Prescription Drugs and DUI in New Hampshire

New Hampshire does not allow a motorist to operate a vehicle under the influence of controlled drugs.  This includes both illicit (illegal) and prescription drugs, but may also include some over the counter substances.  If a driver is convicted of a charge of driving under the influence of controlled drugs, he will be subject to the same penalties as a driver convicted of the equivalent charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.

It is much more difficult to determine when a driver is under the influence of controlled drugs than under the influence of alcohol.  Pursuant to recommendations made by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA), New Hampshire has trained some officers to recognize the possible effects of drugs and better recognize exactly which drugs may be affecting the driver’s level of impairment.  These officers are referred to as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs).  DREs follow an extremely specific 12 step process to determine possible impairment due to drugs, and the process must be strictly followed while investigating drug impairment.

The help of these specially trained officers may be required to reach a level of probable cause that will allow an officer to arrest a driver for DWI.  Once the driver is arrested, he will be subject to the Implied Consent Law of New Hampshire, and may be required to submit to testing for the presence of controlled drugs.  However, this can raise issues of its own.  Most drugs are detectable in an individual’s system beyond the period of time for which they will impair a driver’s ability.  Because of this, a driver may test positive for the presence of controlled drugs despite the fact he or she was not under the influence while operating a vehicle.

In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecutor will be required to show that the driver was, in fact, impaired at the time he was operating the vehicle.  The presence of both controlled drugs and alcohol, possession of controlled drugs at the time of arrest, and other surrounding circumstances may make it easier to establish this fact.


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