It is often a concern of clients of ours that are facing violations of New Hampshire’s driving laws that they normally face two hearings after being arrested. The most common forms of these are when a person is arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is often concern and confusion about the dual hearings and what they both mean.
In New Hampshire, when a person is arrested for driving under the influence they face two hearings. The first, if they request it, is called an “Administrative License Suspension Hearing” or “ALS hearing” for short. These hearings are done at an administrative office in Concord at the Bureau of Hearings, which is a part of the New Hampshire Department of Safety. These hearings are often based on someone testing with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, or because a person refused a blood or breath test. The result is a hearing at the Department of Safety where the hearing is held to determine whether the Department can suspend your license for a period of time. This is not a criminal conviction, but an administrative one. The difference is in the standard of proof that must be met. In an ALS hearing, the burden for the State is much lesser to get the license suspension upheld than it is in the criminal case. In a criminal case, the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt, which the standard most people know in criminal cases.
The reason that the State can suspend your license under a lesser burden of proof lies in the fact that a driving license is a privilege and not a right. Thus, the standard of proof for the State is much lesser. Whereas the criminal case can involve jail time and fines, and the deprivation of personal liberty requires a much higher standard like beyond a reasonable doubt. Your freedom to be free is a right you have under the U.S. Constitution, and the State cannot take that away without proving you committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now, this lesser standard of proof at ALS hearings does not necessarily mean that winning an ALS hearing is impossible. The state has to meet a smaller burden but still needs sufficient facts to meet that burden to sustain the license suspension. There are many issues that are created by arresting officers, and it is important to consult an attorney to find out what rights you may have in your case.