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November 23, 2013

N.H. considers letting first time DWI offenders stay on road

N.H. to debate limited privileges


The devices are required in New Hampshire for repeat and first-time offenders convicted with a blood alcohol content level of 0.16, Harris said.

Shurtleff’s bill would let first-time offenders, convicted at the 0.08 level, continue to drive, providing they have court approval for an ignition interlock system, Harris said.

Twenty states require or incentivize the use of ignition interlocks for all convicted drunken drivers, MADD said.

“Massachusetts currently requires this for repeat offenders, but the law has not been updated since 2006,” Harris said.

Massachusetts also has pending legislation similar to HB 496, he said.

Police chiefs object to the bill, which they see as weakening DWI laws.

“We still oppose this. We have always opposed a Cinderella license,” said Michael Sielicki, president of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police. “New Hampshire has some of the strongest DWI laws. To water them down doesn’t seem practical to us.”

Because the state’s laws are tough, that can give people second thoughts about drinking and driving, he said.

“The time your license is suspended is a deterrent,” Sielicki said.

He acknowledges the consequences — potential job loss, loss of health insurance — are steep, but stresses they force people to think about what they are doing.

“This is a huge burden on a family,” he said.

The New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency has supported the use of ignition interlock systems, but is reviewing the bill and hasn’t yet taken a position on it, coordinator Peter Thomson said.

The Department of Safety also will be reviewing the bill, which it opposed earlier this year.

“The Department of Safety’s position on bills of this nature has been, and remains, that there must be a significant and meaningful period of hard license revocation before any type of limited license is issued,” assistant commissioner Earl Sweeney said. “We believe this hard revocation period must be no less than 60 days and preferably 90 days or it will not serve as a meaningful deterrent.”

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