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Ross MacNaughton, manager of Lethal Sound in Manchester, demonstrates a handheld breath analyzer that is being installed into a car. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Limited driving allowed for 1st-time DWI offenders

CONCORD — The Senate on Thursday preliminarily approved a bill allowing first-time, drunk driving offenders to drive to and from work, school or for medical care.

House Bill 496 establishes a restricted license for first-time, drunk-driving offenders after they have had their license suspended for 60 days or more. The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Stephen Shurtleff, D-Concord, is similar to laws in 20 other states, including Maine.

Under the bill, an offender could petition the court for a limited license that would allow him or her to drive to work and back, to look for work, to attend substance abuse treatment, to receive medical treatment or to attend school, and for medical emergencies for family members.

The bill is intended to allow a first-time offender to maintain his or her employment while abiding by the law’s restrictions.

The bill will be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee before a final vote.

The restricted license limits the time and days a person could drive and would cost $50.

To participate in the program, a driver would have to pay for an enhanced ignition interlock device that prevents a vehicle from starting if the person has alcohol on his or her breath.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said the enhanced interlock device provides law enforcement with real-time data to alert police if the person has someone else blow into the device or is traveling when he or she is not allowed or in an area not approved by the court.

The bill is a priority of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“Drunk driving deaths are 100 percent preventable, and reducing the number of drunk driving fatalities in New Hampshire begins with strengthening the state’s drunk driving laws,” said MADD National President Jan Withers in a statement. “MADD calls on lawmakers to pass our number-one legislative priority: ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers”

The Senate has until May 15 to act on the bill.

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