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Arrested for a DWI: The Initial Process

Posted by attorney Ryan Russman

In your rearview mirror you catch a glimpse of blue and red lights and quickly recognize the sound of a siren. You’ve had a few drinks and know this encounter will not end well. Although it’s extremely difficult, you should try to remain calm and courteous and try not to give the police officer any reason to think you are refusing to cooperate. There is a difference between knowing your rights and “mouthing off" to an officer. Remaining cooperative can positively impact your case. If a warrant is issued and you are arrested for driving while intoxicated, it will be an embarrassing and humbling ordeal. You will be searched, your car will be searched and you’ll be handcuffed. Your car will be towed and stored in a police impound lot, and you will go your separate direction to the police station. The booking process is anything but glamorous, and again you will be humiliated and are likely to become angry.

I cannot stress enough the importance of remaining calm, quiet and cooperative. Once booked, you must wait until a bail bondsperson arrives to set your bail. When the bondsperson arrives, an officer explains the charge, and makes recommendations to the bail bondsmen based on your priors, behavior, level of sobriety, the nature of offense and finally any defaults or outstanding warrants. The bail bondsperson uses all this information to (subjectively) determine the amount of bail. For this reason, it is in your best interest to be courteous, polite and respectful while in custody, as the police and bail bondsperson work together in determining your bail. Most people are released on personal recognizance. They pay the bail bondsperson a minimum of $40, in the form of cash only, and then bail is set.

Depending on the nature of the offense, the amount of bail can range from a few hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. When you are released on personal recognizance, the bail bondsperson will explain the arraignment schedule and the terms of bail. If you violate the terms or fail to show up for your court date, you will owe the full amount of bail. It is very important to understand that from the time of the arrest clear through the completion of trial, you are bound by the terms of your bail. Contrary to popular belief, bail does not only apply to appearing in court. Part of the terms of release state that you must stay out of trouble, and not break any laws, as well as any other stipulations set forth by the bondsperson or the court.

Keep in mind that in New Hampshire, the state needs only to prove bad behavior that is in violation of law by preponderance of evidence. By this time, you license has been submitted for suspension and you are entitled to a hearing with the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Suspension of your license can only be ordered after the hearing. Though you are not required to have an attorney, it is advisable to at least consult with an attorney to gain a broader understanding of the process. During this consultation, the attorney will discuss with you the benefits of fighting the DWI conviction. If you do not fight, there is virtually a 100% chance you will be convicted, pay a fine, lose your license and potentially serve time in jail. The advantages of fighting your case with an attorney vary per individual case. In many instances an attorney may be able to save your license, reduce sentencing fees and decrease the overall burden of a DWI conviction.

Additional resources provided by the author

If you're interested in more information about New Hampshire's DWI process, you may visit Attorney Ryan Russman's blog.

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