Aggravating factors can make DWI penalties even more severe

In New Hampshire and Massachusetts, if you attempt to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence). Both charges are essentially the same and can bring some substantial consequences if you are convicted. Those penalties are made even worse if you are charged with an aggravating factor and the offense is bumped up to Aggravated DWI or DUI.

Those aggravating factors include:

  • Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30 mph
  • Driving with a passenger under 16 years old
  • Attempting to elude law enforcement by speeding up, turning off headlights, abandoning a vehicle, or other evasive actions
  • Causing an accident that results in serious bodily injury
  • Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .16% or more

Normally, a person can be charged with DWI or DUI if their blood alcohol content is .08% or more. However, if you are an underage driver (under 21), you can be charged if your blood alcohol content is .02% or more.

Aggravated DWIs are Class A misdemeanors, except when there is serious bodily injury, which enhances the charge to a Class B felony. Fines can range into thousands of dollars and jail sentences of 14 days up to seven years.

Needless to say, if you are charged with Aggravated DWI, you face serious consequences requiring a skilled and experienced defense attorney. The loss of your license can be especially difficult if you hold a commercial license and are required to drive for your job.

Because every case is different, you should immediately contact an attorney after you are charged. Do not make any statements to law enforcement officials until you have had the opportunity to consult with an attorney who will protect your rights and work hard to preserve your freedom.

Bowser Law serves clients in communities throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Understanding the differences between DUI, DWI and OUI charges

There are a number of different charges that can be brought against you if you operate a motor vehicle after you have used drugs or alcohol in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. Regardless of which offense you are charged with, you will need an experienced drunk driving defense attorney to help you defend yourself.

There are three primary charges that can be filed against you, and it is important to know and understand the similarities and the differences of each one.

DUI. Driving Under the Influence. If you’re charged with a first offense of DUI, then it will be categorized as an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) offense and can result in harsh penalties. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, most drivers will not receive maximum fines and punishment, but even lesser penalties mean thousands of dollars in fines. To be charged with a DUI, a person must exceed the minimum threshold of .08% blood alcohol level (BAC). Upon conviction, a first-time offender can expect to receive a license suspension of anywhere from 45 to 90 days, one year of probation, and mandatory participation in a 16-week drug and alcohol education program.

OUI. Operating Under the Influence. The standard to be charged with OUI is different than being charged with DUI. With a DUI, you must actually be operating a vehicle while you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For an OUI, you can be charged if the keys are in the ignition, even if you pulled off to the side of the road or are caught behind the wheel while not in motion but still under the influence. First-time OUI’s are case specific, meaning that penalties and possible convictions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. While there are no mandatory minimums for jail time, a conviction can bring a license suspension of 45 to 90 days. That increases if a driver refuses to submit to testing under implied consent laws, with suspensions rising to up to 180 days. Fines vary widely but will fall between $500 and $5000 most of the time. Court costs and the costs of completing the sentence will add considerable amounts as well.

DWI. Driving While Intoxicated. This is essentially the same charge as DUI. Sometimes you will see a DUI charge referred to as a DWI. It carries the same penalties as a DUI. In New Hampshire, DWI is related to alcohol, and DUI is related to drugs as the main distinguishing feature between the two charges.

Bowser Law serves clients in communities throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Mounting an effective DWI defense

In Massachusetts, a person who drinks and drives can be charged with Driving Under the Influence, or DUI. However, in New Hampshire, a person who commits the same infraction will be charged with Driving While Intoxicated, or DWI. Both are essentially the same offense, just labeled differently by each state’s jurisdiction. To further complicate matters, New Hampshire does have a DUI statute, but it relates to driving under the influence of drugs.

Regardless of the label, if you’re charged with either a DUI or a DWI, you’re facing some serious penalties. Upon conviction, you’ll pay several hundred dollars in fines; your license will probably be suspended for up to two years, you may spend a little time in jail, and be required to complete a drunk driving education program. If there are any aggravating factors, all of these penalties can rise significantly. Repeat offenders face an even rougher time in the courts.

Many good people make a careless mistake by getting behind the wheel after a drink or two, and if they are pulled over by the police, their lives can go from normal to life-changing in a very short amount of time. And the impacts can be far greater if you are also under 21 years old. With consequences like these, it’s imperative to do everything you can to mount an effective defense to preserve your freedom and your rights.

With the right attorney, many times you can get charges either dismissed or reduced. There are several defense strategies that can be employed depending on the nature of your case. For example, field sobriety tests and procedural issues must be administered properly to preserve your rights. Equipment used to prove your level of intoxication must be determined to be accurate. Witness credibility can also be called into question.

The important thing to remember is that just because you are accused of a DWI offense, you are not automatically guilty. You are allowed due process under the law and with the help of an experienced attorney, you can wage an effective battle to preserve your innocence.

Bowser Law serves clients in communities throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.