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What is a DUI and a DWI in New Hampshire?

Driving or operating a vehicle while impaired by a drug or alcohol is illegal in New Hampshire. Upon arrest by an authorized officer of the Department of Safety, a series of administrative and legal sanctions will follow. The New Hampshire judiciary and the Division of Motor Vehicles are responsible for imposing appropriate statutory sanctions. These public agencies also have designated record custodians, who make DUI-related records available to interested persons.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in New Hampshire?

DUI is short for Driving Under Influence, and DWI is short for Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired. Both terms refer to the same offense in New Hampshire, but the statutory designation is Driving While Intoxicated per RSA § 265A:2.

A DWI refers to the act or attempt to drive a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any other chemical substance which impairs a person’s ability to drive. While New Hampshire sets the threshold for intoxication at a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08%, persons with lower BAC are still liable if the officer suspects impairment. The BAC level is much lower for persons under the age of 21 at a BAC of 0.02.

What happens when you get a DWI for the First Time in New Hampshire?

Several factors affect the administration of criminal, civil, and administrative penalties for first-time DWI offenders. Generally, a first-time DWI is a class B misdemeanor but becomes a Class A misdemeanor with aggravating circumstances (RSA § 265-A:18).. The typical punishments for a first-time offense include a minimum fine of $500 and minimum license revocation for six (6) months. The court may also order submission to a drug/alcohol screening program and an impaired driver education program.

Furthermore, the offender will pay any associated court costs and administrative costs to the DMV. A first-time offender who committed aggravated DWI is liable to stiffer penalties. The court may also order the installation of an ignition interlock and an alcohol treatment/intervention program. 

Meanwhile, a person facing a DWI charge in New Hampshire can challenge the indictment based on several grounds. For one, the admissibility of evidence is the prime defense. When an officer fails to inform the offender of their right to an additional test or right to refuse the test, the evidence of such a test is inadmissible (RSA § 265-A:8).. Likewise, he/she may question the condition of the equipment at the time of administration and the officer’s certification to conduct the test.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DWI in New Hampshire?

Not likely. DWI offenders do not go to jail unless aggravating circumstances are surrounding the offense. However, for an aggravated DWI, the offender is subject to a minimum imprisonment of seventeen (17) days. Nevertheless, the court has the discretion to suspend up to twelve (12) days of the suspense if the offender agrees to comply with predetermined terms of suspension (RSA § 265-A:18.C3)..

What are the Typical Penalties for a DWI Conviction in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire penalties for DUI are punitive and pecuniary. The typical penalties include:

  • Demerit Points: The DMV automatically awards six (6) demerit points to DWI offenders in the state. Accumulating twelve (12) points in twelve (12) calendar months results in a three-month license suspension in addition to court-ordered license suspension.  
  • License Revocation: This penalty is immediate. New Hampshire revokes the driver’s license for a minimum of six (6) months and up to two (2) years (RSA § 265-A:26). Where the offender is a habitual offender or of felonious status, the revocation may last up to ten (10) years without the option of appeal.
  • Fines: The minimum fine for a DUI in New Hampshire is between $500 - $750, depending on aggravating circumstances. Habitual offenders incur stiffer fines and all offenders must also pay all court fees and administrative charges.
  • Ignition interlock device: The device prevents an intoxicated driver from starting a vehicle if he/she fails a breath test. The penalty typically applies to drivers who have suspended sentences, habitual offenders, and aggravated DUI offenders. The court may also impose the penalty on drivers who have a substance abuse problem. Installing an ignition interlock device is at the driver’s expense and with an authorized vendor. (RSA § 265-A:36).
  • Financial Responsibility: Generally, the DMV requires DWI offenders to present proof of financial responsibility as a prerequisite for license reinstatement. Such persons must file SR–22 insurance.
  • Impaired Driver Education Program: This penalty is typically a requirement for the suspension of a prison sentence. The driver must complete the program at a state-approved facility.
  • Random Drug Tests: This penalty often applies to drivers adjudged to have a substance use disorder and undergoing supervision and treatment. Here, the court or DMV may request the driver to submit to a random urinalysis test.
  • Jail: Prison sentence typically applies to offenders guilty of aggravated DWI and habitual offenders. The length of imprisonment is discretionary, depending on the offense class and the court’s evaluation of aggravating and mitigating factors. 

How Long Does a DWI Stay on Your Record in New Hampshire?

A DWI conviction stays on the offender’s record for ten (10) years (RSA § 265-A:21).. Similarly, the demerit points remain on the driver’s license for three (3) years. The offender may petition the court for an annulment ten (10) years after the conviction. An order of annulment sequesters the record from public access. Ergo, only authorized entities may access the record. Nevertheless, the offender may legally claim to have no DWI conviction.

Before the order of annulment, interested persons may obtain records of the offense through the official custodians, i.e., the DMV for driving records, the Clerk of Courts for court records, and the Department of Safety disseminates criminal records.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Find DWI Checkpoints in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire restricts DUI checkpoints within the state. The law prevents the arbitrary establishment of such checkpoints. For one, the police department must obtain a court order to set up the checkpoint. Then, the police must post an advance public notice regarding the time and place of the checkpoint. The checkpoint must also follow judicial protocols. Interested persons may perform a simple web search to find active checkpoints in the state.

Which is Worse; a DUI or DWI?

DUI and DWI refer to the same offense in New Hampshire. The discrepancy in the severity of the crime and punishment is between standard DUI and aggravated DUI.

What is an Aggravated DWI in New Hampshire?

Per RSA § 265-A:3 A, an aggravated DUI in New Hampshire refers to operating or attempting to drive a car while intoxicated and:

  • traveling at more than 30mph over the prima facie speed limit;
  • causing serious bodily injury to another entity;
  • attempting to elude a police officer;
  • carries an underage passenger (i.e., under the age of 16 years);
  • driving a vehicle weighing more than 10,001 pounds;
  • having a BAC of 0.16% or more;
  • any combination of the aforementioned offense;

The punishment for aggravated DUI depends on the nature of the aggravating factors. Generally, the offender faces at least seventeen (17) days in jail, compulsory submission to a substance use disorder evaluation, installation of an interlock device, and license suspension for at least eighteen (18) months. The offender must also pay a minimum fine of $750, court fees, and administrative fees (RSA 265-A:18-I.C3)..

What Happens When You Get a DWI in New Hampshire?

Upon arrest, the DWI offender will receive an arraignment date. On the arraignment day, the court informs the offender of the criminal charges, eligibility to post bail, and the trial date. The trial for DWI in New Hampshire may be a bench trial, i.e., before a judge only, or a jury trial. The most common defense for the defendant is the admissibility of evidence and the officer’s prerogative to conduct a DWI assessment. If this defense is successful, the court generally dismisses the charges and acquits the defendant.

Conversely, if adjudged guilty, the offender faces the aforementioned statutory fines and penalties. The severity of the penalties depends on aggravating and mitigating factors. Mitigating factors such as a safe driving record and impairment due to existing medical conditions are useful in the driver’s defense and reaching a plea bargain with the prosecution.

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