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Unlawful Possession

of Alcohol - Intoxicated

Unlawful Possession of Alcohol-Intoxicated is often referred to as “Internal Possession”. However, that is just a term that police have habitually used and it is inaccurate. There is no such law as “Internal Possession”. The law makes it illegal to be under 21 and be intoxicated by consumption of an alcoholic beverage. It does not make it illegal to have internally possessed it. An Intoxicated charge is a violation level offense in New Hampshire and carries a penalty of a minimum fine of $372.00, and up to $1,000.00, and also a potential license suspension of up to one year, even if you were not driving a car at the time. Also, a conviction gets reported to the Division of Motor Vehicles and therefore appears on the driving record. Most violations are removable from your record after one year, but for this Alcohol conviction you must wait until you are 21 to petition the court to have it removed. (A second offense carries an even greater fine than the first and up to two years loss of license.)


The local police department often encounter people they believe are intoxicated because they are stumbling or doing something unusual like sleeping on bench, urinating in public or being loud and unruly. Quite often the police will ask questions to try and get the person to admit to consuming alcohol. This questioning is done before someone is placed under arrest and therefore they are not entitled to the “Miranda” warnings at that point. If the police question you after arrest then they must first advise you of you right to remain silent and that everything you say can be used against you. If you waive your Miranda rights and agree to answer questions then your answers and admissions can be used as evidence against you I court. However, if you did not waive your rights or were never advised of them, then your statements will be inadmissible in court and cannot be used as evidence against you.


There are often legal issues in even the simplest of cases that lay persons are unfamiliar with such as the 5th Amendment and your right against self-incrimination. It is important to use all the legal tools available to avoid a conviction and a public record that can affect you in future employment or current status as a UNH or college student. Attorney Joanne M. Stella has fought and won Underage Intoxicated cases every year for the last 18 years.


If you are under the age of 21 and you get charged with this offense you will be given a bail bond form indicating when you have to go to court. The first court date is usually the arraignment, and not the trial date. An arraignment is a preliminary hearing where the Judge will review the case to make sure the defendant is aware of the charge against him or her and allow them to enter an initial plea. Most people enter a “not guilty” plea at arraignment which preserves all their rights to later have a trial or negotiate a plea bargain. If you plead “guilty” at arraignment the judge will find you guilty and sentence you that day. It is almost impossible to undue a guilty plea. If you plead “not guilty” the court will assign a trial date that is usually a month or two away. (Pleading “not guilty” is like saying “not ready yet” and simply puts off the final decision.) You will have that additional time to decide what to do. It is best to seek legal representation before the arraignment, but you can also plead “not guilty” and contact Criminal Defense Attorney Joanne M. Stella after the arraignment for a free consultation.

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