RSA 179:10: New Hampshire's "Minor in Possession of Alcohol" or "Unlawful Intoxication by a Minor" Law

New Hampshire has a law under which a person can lose his or her driver's license if he or she is under the age of 21 based upon either possession of alcohol or intoxication. The strange part about this law is that it does not require that the person was driving at the time of the alleged offense.

Here is the text of the law:

RSA 179:10 (2009)

179:10 Unlawful Possession and Intoxication.

I. Except as provided in RSA 179:23, any person under the age of 21 years who has in his or her possession any liquor or alcoholic beverage, or who is intoxicated by consumption of an alcoholic beverage, shall be guilty of a violation and shall be fined a minimum of $300. Any second and subsequent offense shall be fined at least $600. For purposes of this section, alcohol concentration as defined in RSA 259:3-b of .02 or more shall be prima facie evidence of intoxication. No portion of this mandatory minimum fine shall be waived, continued for sentencing, or suspended by the court. In addition to the penalties provided in this section, the court may, in its discretion, impose further penalties authorized by RSA 263:56-b. [Para. I as effective one day after the passage of the state operating budget for the biennium ending June 30, 2009; see also Para. I set out above]

II. Except for persons convicted on the basis of intoxication, any person under the age of 21 years convicted of unlawful possession of liquor or beverage shall forfeit the same, and it shall be disposed of as the court directs. The proceeds, if any, shall be paid into the treasury of the county in which the proceedings were determined.

The kicker to this law is not immediately apparent, though because this law does not explicitly address a loss of the right to drive. It is important to read RSA 263:56-b, which is titled "Revocation or Denial for Drugs or Alcohol Involvement". That law permits a court to take the driver's right to drive away for 90 days up to a year for a first offense, and that law also requires the DMV to revoke the driver's right to drive for 90 days to a year unless it is directed not to do so by the Court.

It is important to carefully review these laws, and if possible consult with a lawyer when contemplating your options if you have been charged with an offense under RSA 179:10.

Have a safe weekend,

Mark Stevens
Salem, NH 03079




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