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Articles Tagged with drunk driving attorney new hampshire

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A bill recently introduced in the New Hampshire legislature to limit or prohibit officers from making arrests at sobriety checkpoints has sparked opposition from law enforcement agencies and other groups, according to a recent article in the Union-Leader.

Representatives of various law enforcement agencies and House representatives banded together to hold a hearing opposing the bill, which is now expected to be voted down in committee. Opponents argued that the bill would prevent law enforcement officers from taking suspected drunk drivers off the roads, which might endanger the lives of both the suspected impaired drivers and other drivers. Law enforcement officers pointed out that New Hampshire’s driving under the influence (DUI) rate is at its lowest point in 15 years, and they credited New Hampshire sobriety checkpoints with helping stop drunk driving.

The bill was introduced to limit the powers of police officers to arrest and search vehicles at sobriety checkpoints, which the bill’s sponsor believes violates drivers’ Fourth Amendment rights. Supporters of the bill also say that it will curtail unannounced or inappropriate sobriety checkpoints. In New Hampshire, a sobriety checkpoint must be approved by a court and announced via some advertising media at least one day before it is performed, but supporters say these rules are often overlooked.

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New Hampshire law requires police departments to obtain a court’s approval before setting up an NH sobriety checkpoint to screen drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Researchers in the field of drunk driving prevention say that sobriety checkpoints work best when the community has plenty of notice about when and where the checkpoint will be. But what kind of sobriety checkpoint notice is required?

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in State v. Hunt (2007) advanced notice isn’t required by New Hampshire law in order to make sobriety checkpoints constitutional. Rather, notice is strongly recommended by the state’s Attorney General, and most law enforcement agencies make an effort to give some kind of notice. In fact, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found that a same-day notice printed in one local newspaper was enough to make a sobriety checkpoint constitutional.

The Court stated that more notice would have been better, but that one same-day article was legally sufficient. More notice is also recommended by experts, who say that much of the deterrent effect of sobriety checkpoints comes from local drivers knowing they might be stopped, so they choose to avoid driving if they have been drinking at all.

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police dui preventionMany law enforcement attempts to stop drunk driving are focused on “deterrence,” or encouraging people not to drive when there is a risk they may be arrested on suspicion of breaking DUI laws. Although NH sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols will arrest people they suspect of breaking New Hampshire DUI laws, they are also intended to deter people from driving in the first place if they’ve had any drinks.

Deterrence is encouraged for several reasons, according to the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). First, police estimate that for every suspected drunk driver they arrest, anywhere from a dozen to a few hundred drivers violating DUI laws are never caught. Since police cannot be everywhere at once, they encourage people not to risk driving if they’ve also been drinking, lowering the number of impaired drivers on the road.

Second, police patrols use deterrence methods because they work. Research from the IIHS indicates that up to 9,000 accidents are prevented each year because of sobriety checkpoint alerts, ignition interlock devices, and media campaigns around holidays and other events that remind drivers to avoid getting behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking or using drugs.

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New Hampshire police must get court approval for an NH sobriety checkpoint, but once the checkpoint is in place, they may arrest anyone whom they suspect is breaking a New Hampshire law – not just those they suspect are driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI). However, state representative George Lambert of Litchfield says this power goes too far – and he’s introducing a bill in the state legislature to limit it.

sobriety checkpointsCurrently, Rep. Lambert believes the police have too much power to make any kind of arrest at a sobriety checkpoint. Since these checkpoints are approved or denied by courts based on whether they will deal with potential DUI properly, but not other possible crimes, the representative believes that police powers at the checkpoint should also be limited to arresting people on suspicion of DUI – but not suspicion of other possible offenses, such as driving with a suspended license.

Opponents point out that checkpoints have been helpful at deterring several different types of possible offenses, not just DUI, because drivers worry about being arrested and so avoid driving if they suspect they’d be breaking the law by doing so.

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Let’s face it: nobody wants to be the party-ruining “nag” who reminds everyone not to drive or to accept a ride from anyone who isn’t sober. But when you invite friends, family, and other loved ones over for a party, your actions can mean the difference between one of the people you care about staying safe, or facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

If you’re throwing a party, here are just a few of the steps you can take to help your partygoers avoid a drunk driving charge in New Hampshire:

  • Don’t let friends drive drunk. If you suspect a visitor cannot safely drive, take his or her keys away. You may want to set up a central “key depository,” such as a bowl by the front door, for everyone to put their car keys in as they arrive. Don’t give the keys back unless you’re convinced the person can safely drive or you know the person is going home with a sober driver.
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