New law gets tough on repeat drunk drivers

TIM JEAN/File photoN.H. Gov. Chris Sununu has signed Tyler Shaw's Law, new legislation that enhances penalties for drunk drivers.

CONCORD, N.H. – A bill enhancing penalties on repeat drunk drivers who injure or kill others was signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu on Monday, naming it after a deceased victim, Tyler Shaw.

House Bill 179-FN — Tyler Shaw's Law — is a bipartisan effort that for Shaw’s mother, Beth Shaw, means her son “did not die in vain.”

According to the law, someone who has already had a DWI conviction will face tougher penalties if they harm or kill someone in the second offense, explained the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, N.H.

It requires a minimum 10-year sentence to be imposed by judges upon conviction in such repeat cases. A maximum sentence is 30 years.

In cases of a third offense, a life sentence can be imposed.

At the bill signing, Abbas said he hoped the law will serve as a deterrent.

Sununu said the bill was not easy, but it was a bipartisan effort fueled by a mother, Beth Shaw, who saw it through to the finish and should be given the most credit.

“It was not an easy bill,” Sununu said.

He noted it was “great to see nobody gave up. It got across the line.”

The bill was originally filed by former state Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, who ran for governor and lost, but it was carried forward this session by Abbas.

“I actually heard your testimony, Beth, and I was moved to support it,” Abbas said.

He noted the law “makes New Hampshire safer.”

Abbas said to Shaw at the signing, “I don’t think this bill would have passed without your support. You deserve all the credit.”

The governor said in his position he has to deal with a lot of tragedy and you “have to look at the system and see how it failed. This was a case where it was a real win, win-win.”

Shaw, of Concord, said if the measure saves one life all the effort will be worthwhile.

She said Tyler was her first-born son and at age 20 had a bright future when he was killed by a repeat drunk driver.

The accident was on April 30, 2018, on Logging Hill Road in Bow near the interchange with Interstate 89 and 93.

The drunk driver ran the stop sign and crashed into a vehicle carrying her son. The driver had a .16 blood alcohol content level; the state evidence level for intoxicated driving is .08.

This was not the first — but the third — conviction for this driver who is serving six years with a six-month suspended sentence provided he completes his third rehabilitation effort.

“The laws failed Tyler. The Merrimack County Attorney’s office failed Tyler. The judges in the previous cases failed Tyler,” giving the driver “a slap on the wrist. We need to step up as a state,” Shaw said.

She told those gathered for the signing that as she made her way through the criminal justice system she learned how broken it was.

She thanked Abbas for resubmitting the bill.


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