New Hampshire Alcohol Laws: Granite-Tough Laws!

This page will help you understand New Hampshire alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention wasted time and legal costs.

New Hampshire alcohol laws apply to residents. But they also apply to visitors. It’s easy to  assume that New Hampshire laws are the same as those in any other state. But the result might not be good.


I.    Minimum Age Laws
II.   Other Alcohol Laws
III.  Resources
IV.   Legal Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Young people often like to work during the summer tourist season. Sometimes they want to work at ski lodges in the winter. In both cases they need to know the age required for working around alcohol.

What is the minimum age to be a bartender? What is it for being a server of alcohol? And what is it for working in a store that sells alcohol for use elsewhere?

Young people have questions. So we have facts for them.

New Hampshire’s alcohol laws require servers of alcohol or bartenders to be adults. That is, they must be at least 18 years old. The state permits persons 16 or older to sell alcohol in a store for off-site use. In the latter case, a manager at least 18 must be present.

new hampshire alcohol lawsNew Hampshire alcohol laws do not permit persons under the age of 21 to drink any alcohol any time for any reason. Thus, it is illegal for those under 21 to consume wine for communion or for Seder.

That makes needless criminals of many priests and parents. And it denies those under 21 their religious freedom granted in the U.S. Constitution. The state’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” doesn’t apply.

It is a crime to use a false ID to buy alcohol. It’s also a crime to sell, lend, or transfer any false ID.

Retailers may sue anyone under age 21 who uses a false ID to buy alcohol from them. In doing so, they may recover any losses, including fines, caused by the illegal sale. Thus, the state uses the effective “Alaska method.”

It is also illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02.

II. Other New Hampshire Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

New Hampshire has a government monopoly over the sale of wine and distilled spirits (liquor). The ABC or monopoly package stores do not sell beer or any beverage with alcohol content of 6% or less.

As a result of the monopoly, product selection is limited. And prices are high.

The monopoly sells alcohol Mondays through Fridays from 6:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. On Sundays, they’re usually open between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Check sales hours for each store. They’re not open on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Grocery and convenience stores may sell beer and packaged beverages up to 6% alcohol. They may sell alcohol from 6:00 a.m. to 11:45 pm.

Restaurants and bars may sell beer, wine and spirits from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.

It’s a violation of New Hampshire alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. That includes adults age 18, 19, and 20. The penalty is a fine of $1,200. If it led to bodily injury, it’s a fine of $2,000, and/or jail for one year.

Ellsworth is a dry town. That is, it completely prohibits the sale of any alcoholic beverage. Other towns greatly restrict alcohol sales. They are Brookfield, Canterbury, Dummer, Eaton, Hancock, Hebron, and New Castle. Also Orange, Sandwich, Temple, Tuftonboro, and Washington. They are neo-prohibition towns

B. Buying Alcohol

new hampshire alcohol lawsIt’s illegal to use a false ID to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. The penalty is a mandatory fine of at least $500. Any later offense carries a required fine of at least $1,000. No judge may reduce these fines. The same penalties apply to possessing a false ID or letting someone else use one’s ID.

Alcohol sellers may legally confiscate any ID they believe to be illegitimate.

Drivers who use their license to buy alcohol for anyone under 21 are violating the law. The state punishes them with license suspension for 90 days. The same penalty applies to those who loan their license to a person under 21.

The penalty for possessing a beer keg that lacks registration or a label is a fine of up to $1,000. The same penalty applies to destroying the label on a keg.

In general it’s illegal for anyone under age 21 to have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or higher. That’s true even if not driving. The penalty is a fine of at least $300. A second offense leads to a fine of at least $600.

C. Driving and Alcohol

new hampshire alcohol lawsNew Hampshire alcohol laws prohibit driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. It’s 0.04% for commercial drivers. And it’s 0.02% for drivers under age 21.

But police may arrest drivers at BACs lower than the legal limits. Their belief that the driver is suffering intoxication and unable to operate the vehicle safely is all it takes.

Yet some diseases can sometimes mimic intoxication. For example, diabetes. Under some conditions diabetics can slur their words, stumble, and act fooish. Yet no one wants a diabetic with no BAC to be in jail for DUI.

On the other hand, many people aren’t impaired with BACs above the legal limit. But they are unable to use this fact in their defense.

These are the penalties for a DUI in New Hampshire.

   First Offense
    • License suspension for nine months to two years.
    • A fine of up to $500.
    • Judge may order completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program.
    • Also, judge may order random BAC or other tests.
    • To reinstate license, offender completes an impaired driver intervention program . It’s at offender’s expense.
 Second Offense
    • Jail for ten days.
    • License revocation for at least three years.
    • A fine of up to $750.
    • Judge may order completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program.
    • Also, judge may order random BAC or other tests.
    • To reinstate license, offender must complete a seven-day multiple DWI offender intervention detention center program. It’s at the offender’s expense.
Third Offense
    • Jail for at least 180 days.
    • License revocation for at least five years.
    • A fine of at least $750.
    • Judge may order an alcohol or drug treatment program.
    • Also, judge may order random BAC or other tests.
    • After jail, a 28 day residential treatment program. Again, paid  by the offender.

The state can convict people of DUI even if not driving. For example, if they attempt to drive. Or if they are simply in physical control of a vehicle while it’s in parked.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline a chemical test. But if they do so, the state punishes them. If they use their right again, the state suspends their driving license for 180 days. If they use their right again later, it imposes a license suspension for two years.

But there is no legal penalty for not taking a field sobriety test. These are highly subjective. And they’re not accurate. In fact. about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of three people with zero BAC (0.00%) can’t pass a field sobriety test. And they fail under ideal indoor conditions!

Lawyers strongly urge people not to take a field sobriety test. Politely refuse. And do so as long as needed.

Police have many clever ways to convince drivers to take the tests. Many falsely insist that the law requires it. That’s false.

Others say that drivers can prove their innocence by taking the test. That’s backward. It’s the state that has to prove the driver is guilty.

Besides, officers don’t believe that passing the test shows sobriety. So for them, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose” with field sobriety tests.

While investigating, police can legally lie. So don’t fall for it.

Learn more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test.

D. Boating and Alcohol

new hampshire alcohol lawsNew Hampshire alcohol laws prohibit boating while intoxicated (BWI). That’s operating any vessel under the influence of alcohol and/or controlled drugs.

Having a BAC of 0.08% or higher is being under the influence of alcohol. Yet a BAC over 0.03% but under 0.08% can lead to a BWI conviction. That, along with the arresting officer’s belief. Of course, that may be very subjective.

The state punishes a BWI as follows.

    • A fine. Amount depends on judge.
    • Loss of boating license for at least one year.
    • Suspension of driving license for nine months to two years.
    • Inclusion of BWI conviction on vehicle driving record.

Any later convictions receive more severe penalties.

Operators receive an additional penalty if a BWI occurs with a passenger under age 16. They must complete a residential intervention program for seven days. It’s at the offender’s expense.

The state will argue in court that using the right to decline a BAC test proves guilt. Of course it doesn’t. Yet it might persuade jurors.

III. Resources on New Hampshire Alcohol Laws

IV. Advice about Drinking Laws in New Hampshire

New Hampshire alcohol laws can be challenging. This is true in any state. Laws can conflict. Their interpretation can change. So never rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

The same is true of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. It’s worth about what you paid. That is not much. In fact it might be wrong.

Get facts and advice about New Hampshire alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer holding a license in the state.