New Hampshire Alcohol Laws: Granite-Tough Laws

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. The result might not be good.

I. Minimum Age Laws


I.    Minimum Age Laws
II.   Alcohol Violations
III.  Resources
IV.   Seek Good Advice

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 drinking elsewhere?

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-premises consumption. In the latter case, a manager at lest 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. Apparently, the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” is ignored.

It is a criminal act to use a false ID to buy alcohol. It is also a criminal act 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.

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

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

New Hampshire has a government monopoly over the sale of wine and distilled spirits. Spirits are rum, vodka, scotch, bourbon, tequila, gin, etc. The ABC or monopoly package stores do not sell beer or any beverage with alcohol content of 6% or less. They sell 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 closed 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 imprisonment 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, New Castle, Orange, Sandwich, Temple, Tuftonboro, and Washington. They are neo-prohibition towns

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 mandatory 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 altered or fictitious.

Drivers who use their license to buy alcohol for anyone under 21 are violating the law. They’re penalized 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 an unregistered, unlabeled beer keg is a fine of up to $1,000. The same penalty applies to destroying the label on a keg.

It’s generally illegal for anyone under age 21 to have a blood alcohol concentration 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.

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.

However, drivers may be arrested at BACs lower than the legal limits. All that’s needed is the belief of police that the driver is too intoxicated to operate the vehicle.

This is logical. Some people are intoxicated at lower levels than most. Unfortunately, diabetes symptoms mimic intoxication. No one wants a diabetic with barely detectable alcohol to be penalized for driving under the influence (DUI).

On the other hand, many people are not intoxicated with BACs above the legal limit. However, they are unable to use this fact in their defense.

These are the penalties for a DUI in New Hampshire.

First Offense
  • new hampshire alcohol lawsLicense 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 complete an impaired driver intervention program at offender’s expense.
Second Offense
  • Mandatory imprisonment 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
  • new hampshire alcohol lawsMandatory imprisonment for at least 180 days.
  • License revocation for at least five years.
  • A fine of at least $750.
  • Judge may order completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program.
  • Also, judge may order random BAC or other tests.
  • After imprisonment, a 28 day residential treatment program paid for by the offender.

People may be convicted 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 parked.

Driver Rights

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

new hampshire alcohol lawsHowever, there is no legal penalty for not taking a field sobriety test. These are notoriously subjective and highly inaccurate. 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.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers never to take them. Never, ever. They say to politely but repeatedly refuse. Officers have many clever ways to convince drivers to submit to the tests. Many falsely insist that the law requires it. But no law in the U.S. does. Others commonly say that drivers can prove their innocence by passing the test. But officers don’t believe that passing the test shows sobriety. For officers, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose” with field sobriety tests.

Discover much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

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. However, a BAC over 0.03% but under 0.08% can lead to a BWI conviction. That, along with other evidence, may show being under the influence.

A BWI is penalized as follows.

  • A fine. Amount depends on judge hearing case.
  • Loss of boating rights 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.

If a BWI occurs with a passenger under age 16, operators are given an additional penalty. They must complete a residential intervention program for seven days at their own expense.

Using the right not to submit to a chemical test may be used against operators in court.

III. Resources on New Hampshire Alcohol LawsProhibition in New Hampshire


IV. Seek Good Advice

New Hampshire alcohol laws can be challenging. This is true in any state. Laws can conflict. Their interpretation can change. Never rely on this or any other site. The same is true of family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Smile and thank them for their ideas and suggestions. Then ignore what they say.

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