NH high court upholds license suspension for DWI

By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press Writer / August 19, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—The state Supreme Court has ruled that even if an arrest for driving while intoxicated didn't result in a conviction it still can be considered when the state requires that a driver receive further treatment before his or her license is reinstated.

James M. Mooney, of Nashua, was arrested in 1994 on a charge of driving while intoxicated but wasn't convicted. A decade later, he was arrested for DWI, convicted and required to complete an Impaired Driver Intervention Program, a type of alcohol education and counseling course. At the conclusion of the program, a counselor said Mooney needed further treatment, citing his 1994 arrest, before his license would be reinstated.

Mooney appealed that decision in an administrative hearing at the Department of Public Safety, arguing the intervention program counselor couldn't use his 1994 arrest to further penalize him. The hearings officer upheld use of the 1994 arrest and said requiring further treatment wasn't a penalty.

In its unanimous ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court stated that decisions of hearings officers could be set aside by the court only if they are "clearly unreasonable or unlawful."

State regulations empower counselors in the Impaired Driver Intervention Program to require further treatment "if the client has two or more alcohol or drug-related motor vehicle arrests or convictions."

The Supreme Court ruled it's valid to consider arrests as well as convictions to protect the public and treat alcohol problems.

"The declared policy of the legislature is that intoxicated drivers are a severe threat to the health and safety of the citizens of New Hampshire and visitors from out-of-state who use our highways," the court stated.

State law, the ruling said, defines successful completion of an Impaired Driver Intervention Program as "meeting further counseling requirements, if any, arising out of the final evaluation given to the offender."

Mooney, who represented himself in court, couldn't be reached by telephone for comment Thursday. He recently filed a change of address form saying he'd moved to Nashua, and the phone number for the only James Mooney listed there had been disconnected.

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