NH House panel backs bill further punishing DWI arrestees

I recently found this article by Ted Siefer, the Union Leader's State House Bureau correspondent:
CONCORD – Repeat drunk drivers could be required to use an ignition interlock device when their driving privileges are restored under a bill backed unanimously by a House committee.

The House Transportation Committee voted 10-0 Tuesday to endorse Senate Bill 282, which was passed by the Senate in February.

The bill would allow the Commissioner of Safety to request an administrative hearing before returning the driver’s license or driving privileges to anyone who was convicted for drunk driving, aggravated drunk driving, reckless driving that involved alcohol, negligent homicide that resulted from drunken driving, or being a habitual drunk driver.

Under the bill, offenders could be required to use either a standard interlock or “enhanced” device, which takes a photo when users breathe into it, for a period of one to two years.

The bill is one of several being pushed by the Department of Safety this session in an effort to crack down on repeat drunk driving. Last month the Senate passed a House-passed bill, HB 482, which would require anyone who tries to circumvent an interlock device to use the enhanced device and face other penalties.

A full House vote on SB 282 has not yet been scheduled.

 Here's the official version of the proposed bill:

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve

AN ACT authorizing the commissioner of safety to require the installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of restoring driving privileges in certain instances.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Section; Department of Safety Authority to Order Ignition Interlock Device Installation. Amend RSA 265-A by inserting after section 36 the following new section:
265-A:36-a Department of Safety Authority to Order Ignition Interlock Device Installation. The commissioner of safety may require an administrative hearing prior to the restoration of the license or driving privilege of a person whose license or driving privilege was revoked or suspended as the result of a conviction of any offense under RSA 265-A:45, RSA 265-A:2, RSA 265-A:3, RSA 265:79-a where alcohol was involved, RSA 262:19, or RSA 630:3, II, and, upon a finding that the safety of the person and of other users of the highways would be enhanced thereby, may order the person, as a condition of restoration of his or her license or driving privilege, to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle registered to that person or used by that person, for not less than 12 months nor more than 2 years, subject to the same conditions and prohibitions as if the interlock was ordered by a court under the provisions of this subdivision.

2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2013.
(Note that this bill says nothing about "repeat offenders."  The Union Leader is the worst example of "journalism" I've ever encountered.  It's usually rife with factual, spelling, and typographical errors.)

I lost my driving privileges, due to a 1st Offense DUI in NH, for almost a year.  This was mainly due to the holy rollers at Amethyst Foundation punishing me for my "willfulness" (their actual words) in objecting to being forced to go to religious AA meetings.  During this period, I spent thousands on car rides to and from work (and mandated AA meetings). 

Bill 282 now provides additional hoops to jump through once you complete your aftercare:  an administrative hearing.  Administrative hearings, as I have posted before, are dangerous.  Unlike a criminal or civil court proceeding, administrative hearings do not afford the defendant much in the way of procedural protections.  Administrative hearings, in the name of judicial expediency and efficiency, often make quick, cursory, and subjective determinations.  See my previous post entitled:  "16 Red Flag Hearings: 14 Affirmed, 0 Reversed, 2 Remanded "

While restoring driving privileges on the condition that an ignition interlock device sounds reasonable (I would have gladly done this if it meant I could drive to work), it will likely open the door to further administrative requirements such as more aftercare being assigned, extra fees, and extended suspensions of driving privileges.  I see nothing in this bill that would restrain the administrative judges from doing this.

Further, ignition interlock devices (IIDs) are quite expensive.  In California the average cost for an IID is about $2.50 per day. Some companies additionally charge around $75-$100 for installation. You will also need to pay fees approaching $100 each month for the maintenance and calibration of your ignition interlock device.  Additionally, you will need to apply, and pay the fee, for a special IID license.  So, under NH Bill 282, the minimum one year IID could cost you around $1,300.

All this for a 1st Offense DUI, and after you complete your aftercare.  Again, my concern is that once forced into the administrative court hearing, you are relatively helpless to the whims of administrative judges, who, in the past, have not shown much leniency (or fairness, in my opinion).

A fairer version of this bill would allow the use of IIDs during the suspension period. Unless you live in Manchester or Concord, there is no public transportation.  Private rides cost $50-100, each.  Drivers on Craigslist are unreliable and sometimes dangerous.  Many people lose their jobs because they cannot afford this expense.  That's too harsh a penalty.

Not to the people at Amethyst Foundation, though, who will take glee in your suffering.  They are all former drunks who had to go through the same punishment, and will love to make you go through it, too.  Maybe, I'm sure they hope, you'll become a born-again Christian in the process, too.


  1. This is spot on. The bigger problem is that although a valid argument is presented, it is difficult to muster any support from even the most sound of mind. The social outage over drunk driving is akin to asking sympathy for child molester Jerry Sandusky. It ain't gonna happen. There is supposed to be a separation of church and state. If you do not succumb to the religious beliefs of AA or the Amethyst Foundation you will not drive again. It is sad but I have had to counsel those in need of a license to lie through their teeth to get back on the road.

  2. Thank you. I completely admit that driving while impaired is wrong, both morally and legally. The issues I have are:

    (1) it is overcriminalized;
    (2) rehabilitation consists of religious teachings without any scientific basis which violate the 1st Amendment according to multiple Federal Circuit decisions (including NH's).

    As an admitted first offense DUI offender I was perfectly willing to pay a reasonable price for my crime. Religious indoctrination, pseudoscience, arbitrary and capricious power by LDACs and Amethyst Foundation, and complete revocation of driving privileges, are unreasonable.

    Restoration of one's driving privileges should not require admitting one's belief in the fundamentalist god espoused by AA. And AA is what the recovery industry insists is the only treatment, despite being conclusively shown by the scientific community to be worthless.

    Thanks for sharing.