There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question posed in the title of this post. The penalties for a first offense DUI in Massachusetts or New Hampshire can vary, however most first time offenders in both States are typically sentenced at or near the minimum mandatory penalty for a violation of the Drunk Driving Statute in each State. What does this mean in terms of defending a DUI charge? It is the opinion of this attorney that it rarely makes sense to plead guilty to, or make admission to, a DUI charge. Very few sitting Judges in Massachusetts or New Hampshire will penalize a defendant following trial with a more severe sentence or penalty. The consequences of a DUI conviction include the following sentencing conditions:
- Fines and special victim/witness fees
- Probation supervision and monthly supervision fees
- Alcohol Driver Education Courses
- Suspension of Driver’s License and/or Driving Privileges
- Criminal record of conviction and exposure as subsequent offender in future
Although a First Offense DUI charge in Massachusetts carries up to a possible 2 ½ year jail sentence, very few first time offenders are sentenced to any period of incarceration. A First Offense DUI in New Hampshire, absent Aggravating factors, is a Class B Misdemeanor Criminal Offense, and carries no jail sentence. Without the possibility of incarceration there is no right to a jury trial, all cases are tried to a Judge, and there is no right to a court appointed lawyer. If you wish to defend a First Offense DUI in New Hampshire you will be responsible for finding and hiring your own attorney.
A Massachusetts District Court will appoint public counsel to a defendant charged with DUI if they qualify under financial guidelines. A First Offense DUI in Massachusetts may be tried to either a Judge sitting alone (Bench Trial) or to a jury of six (6) persons, but there is only one (1) trial and a defendant and his/her lawyer must decide which route to chose for the ultimate single trial.
Many of those charged with DUI in Massachusetts and New Hampshire appear before the respective Court with no prior criminal record. This is one of the reasons why so many first time offenders are sentenced to the minimum mandatory penalty, as opposed to more severe sentencing options, even after trial. Conduct resulting in the arrest does matter to the Court. A sentencing Court will consider a person’s background, prior criminal record, driver’s history, education and/or employment history, family obligations and dependents. In some cases it is appropriate to seek professional assistance with substance abuse and/or addiction behavior through counseling or self-help programs prior to a sentencing hearing before a Court. A qualified attorney should be willing and able to refer a client to appropriate professionals to identify and address substance abuse and/or addiction behavior.
Hiring a qualified, experienced DUI Defense Lawyer is the best way to ensure that a Court in Massachusetts or New Hampshire imposes the appropriate sentence in your particular case. More importantly it is the best way to avoid a sentencing hearing altogether. Drivers found “not guilty” on the DUI charge are never sentenced for that alleged offense. Don’t hire a plea escort service!
Board Certified DUI Defense Attorney Michael Bowser has over fifteen (15) years of experience successfully defending those charged with DUI in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. If you have been charged with DUI in Massachusetts or New Hampshire or have questions about DUI penalties and sentencing options in either state, it is vital that you contact Attorney Michael Bowser today at 1-888-5BOWSER or visit his web-site www.bowserlaw.com