N.H. court backs license suspension
Use of previous drunken driving arrests upheld
CONCORD, N.H. — The state Supreme Court has ruled that even if arrests for driving while intoxicated do not result in convictions, they still can be considered when the state requires drivers to get further treatment before their license is reinstated.
James M. Mooney of Nashua was arrested in 1994 on a charge of driving while intoxicated, but was not convicted. A decade later, he was arrested on the same charge, convicted, and required to complete an Impaired Driver Intervention Program. At the conclusion of the program, a counselor said Mooney needed further treatment before his license would be reinstated, citing his 1994 arrest.
Mooney appealed that decision in an administrative hearing at the Department of Public Safety, arguing that the intervention program counselor could not use his 1994 arrest to further penalize him. The hearings officer upheld the use of that arrest and said requiring further treatment was not a penalty.
In its unanimous ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court stated that decisions of hearing officers could be set aside by the court only if they are “clearly unreasonable or unlawful.’’
State regulations empower counselors in the 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 is valid to consider arrests as well as convictions to protect the public and treat addiction.
“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, could not be reached by telephone for comment yesterday. He recently filed a change of address form saying he had moved to Nashua.